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Thread: Satyagraha at the Los Angeles Opera, Los Angeles, CA

          
   
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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Satyagraha at the Los Angeles Opera, Los Angeles, CA

    Satyagraha by Philip Glass at the Los Angeles Opera, Los Angeles, California

    This review is for the performance of Sunday afternoon, 4 November, 2018.

    Satyagraha is a co-production with Los Angeles Opera, The Metropolitan Opera and The English National Opera.

    Conductor: Grant Gershon
    Director: Phelim McDermott

    Cast

    M.K. Gandhi: Sean Panikkar
    Prince Arjuna: Michael J. Hawk
    Lord Krishna: Patrick Blackwell
    Miss Schlesen: So Young Park
    Mrs. Naidoo: Erica Petrocelli
    Kasturbai: J'Nai Bridges
    Mr. Kallenbach: Theo Hoffman
    Parsi Rustomji: Morris Robinson
    Mrs. Alexander: Niru Liu

    Where to start? I wasn't sure of the thrust of the opera and thought it was more of a Buddhist-oriented plot than what it is. For those reading this, the plot sort of follows the first act of the film Gandhi (you know, the one with Ben Kingsley as Gandhi), when Gandhi lived in South Africa 1893-1914 and battled the South African government after experiencing discrimination. Satyagraha, by the way, was Gandhi's philosophy and means "Truth Force".

    The opera is sung in Sanskrit throughout and without surtitles, which I found frustrating. In place of the surtitles, the production occasionally projected statements on the rear wall of the stage from the "Bagavad Gita" for the audience to ponder. The net effect was a feeling similar to those days before surtitles where the audience has to recall the synopsis to understand what's happening.

    Satyagraha - according to Wikipedia - was Glass' second opera, dating to 1980. It is complete with the classic Glass propulsive score, but really one of his most beautiful. Sean Panikkar's Gandhi was on stage and singing almost continuously throughout Act I, with a surprisingly beautiful tenor that riveted attention. I wouldn't say that Act I was particularly dramatically coherent - a green-faced Lord Krishna made an appearance and I'm still not sure who Prince Arjuna was. The chorus was stunning and provided solid support during the act. Sean Panikkar's biography, by the way, states that he is 'highly prized in contemporary music'. I didn't anticipate such a lovely voice singing Glass.

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    Act II was more solid dramatically, but Sean Panikkar had little to do here, with the chorus having the star role. The act began with Gandhi being threatened by locals (with the chorus singing 'laughing' type lyrics) and was rescued by Mrs. Alexander, sung by Niru Liu - the wife of the police superintendent. It is during this act, in scene 3, that Indians living in South Africa, under Gandhi's leadership, protested their lousy treatment by burning their registration documents (chorus members, one by one, slowly approached stage center and dropped their cards into a burning fire).

    Act III ties together Gandhi's Satyagraha with Martin Luther King's non-violent protests. Sean Panikkar sings some of the most gorgeous music of the opera while MLK, with his back to us - high above the stage mimes his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

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    Even I, not much of a contemporary music fan, found myself tearing up listening to Gandhi's prayer and reflecting on the fact that both of these titanic figures fell to assassins.

    More, please.

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    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    I'm not that keen on this sort of music but I would love to experience this. I'd need surtitles though to enjoy it properly, or else study it thoroughly beforehand.
    " if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it."
    Roald Dahl

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