The staging is directed by Phelim McDermott and designed by Julian Crouch, co-artistic directors (along with Lee Simpson) of the London theater company Improbable (best known in New York for its musical theater version of the children's grotesque Shockheaded Peter). This is the team's first opera production.
Considered to be part of a Philip Glass trilogy (along with Einstein on the Beach and Akhnaten) on visionary historical figures, Satyagraha depicts Gandhi's time as a young lawyer in South Africa from 1893 to 1914. In agitating on behalf of Indians in the British imperial territory for rights equal to those of whites, Gandhi developed the tactic and philosophy of non-violent resistance which he later used to help lead India to independence. He named his approach satyagraha, a Sanskrit word meaning the endeavor or struggle for truth.
The Sanskrit libretto for Glass's opera, compiled by the composer with author Constance DeJong, is taken from the Bhagavad-Gita, an ancient Hindu scripture frequently cited by Gandhi as one of his major sources of inspiration.
Scottish tenor Alan Oke takes the role of Gandhi at ENO, with an ensemble cast and the company's chorus and orchestra under the baton of Johannes Debus. There are eight more performances through May 1 at the Coliseum in London; information and tickets are available at www.eno.org/satyagraha.
The Metropolitan Opera's run of Satyagraha opens on April 11, 2008, with Richard Croft as Gandhi and Dante Azolini, making his house debut, on the podium.
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All photos © English National Opera / Catherine Ashmore.