Metropolitan and English National Opera to Stage Philip Glass's Satyagraha

Classic Arts News   Metropolitan and English National Opera to Stage Philip Glass's Satyagraha
Satyagraha, Philip Glass's 1980 opera about the early career of Mohandas K. Gandhi, will receive its Metropolitan Opera premiere in 2008 in a collaboration with the English National Opera in London.

The staging will be directed by Phelim McDermott and designed by Julian Crouch, co-artistic directors (along with Lee Simpson) of the London theater company Improbable, which is best known in New York for its musical theater version of the children's grotesque Shockheaded Peter. This will be the team's first operatic effort.

The production will open at the Coliseum in London on April 5, 2007, with eight more performances through May 1. Alan Oke will portray Gandhi; Johannes Debus will conduct. The Met's run of Satyagraha opens on April 11, 2008, with Richard Croft as Gandhi.

The most recent collaboration between the two companies was the widely-praised and popular staging of Madama Butterfly by filmmaker Anthony Minghella which opened the Met's season this past September. The production was a major hit for ENO in 2005.

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 libretto for Glass's opera, written by the composer with author Constance DeJong, is in Sanskrit, the language of many ancient Hindu scriptures and epics.

The Met's decision to present Satyagraha is part of an effort by Peter Gelb, the company's new general director, to stage at least one important contemporary work each season. Tan Dun's The First Emperor, a Met commission starring Plšcido Domingo, opens at the opera house this December 21; Gelb has also announced plans for the New York premiere of John Adams's Doctor Atomic in 2008-09, a revival of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles in 2009-10, and the world premiere of a commission from Osvaldo Golijov in 2010-11.

"Satyagraha is one of the operas that I first identified as a piece the Met should be producing," Gelb told the Associated Press today. "It's one of the major contemporary masterpieces. I believe it's perhaps Philip Glass's most important work."

The Metropolitan Opera has produced only one Glass opera previously: The Voyage, which the house commissioned to commemorate the 500th anniversary in 1992 of Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the Americas.

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