"Savitri" and "River of Light" Indian chamber operas
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This fall, Festival Opera journeys to the richly-nuanced culture of India for a presentation of two noteworthy chamber operas: one classical: Gustav Holst's "Savitri" and one contemporary: Jack Perla's "River of Light."
Gustav Holst is widely recognized as the composer of "The Planets", however most are not aware of his fascination with the land and culture of India. "Savitri" is a chamber opera in one act, Holst's Opus 25, with the libretto by Holst himself.
The story is based on the episode of Savitri and Satyavan from the Mahabharata, a Sanskrit epic of ancient India: Savitri, wife of the woodman Satyavan, hears the voice of Death calling to her. He has come to claim her husband. Satyavan arrives to find his wife in distress, but assures Savitri that her fears are but a "Maya" (illusion): "All is unreal, all is Maya." Even so, at the arrival of Death, all strength leaves him and he falls to the ground. Savitri, now alone and desolate, welcomes Death. Death, moved to compassion by her greeting, offers her a boon of anything but the return of Satyavan. Savitri asks for life in all its fullness. After Death grants her request, she informs him that a full life is impossible without her Satyavan. Death, defeated, leaves her and Satyavan awakens.
Bay Area composer and pianist Jack Perla is active in opera, jazz, chamber and symphonic music. "River of Light", written with librettist and New York Times bestselling author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, received its premiere with Houston Grand Opera in March 2014. The story: Having moved from India, Meera loves her new husband, her high-powered job, and the Houston lifestyle until the birth of her daughter makes her long to recreate authentic Diwali traditions at home. The tale unfolds in about 30 minutes with a score that draws extensively on North Indian ragas and an orchestra that mixes Western instruments with sitar and the tabla.
Coloratura soprano Maya Kherani will sing the principal roles Savitri and Meera in each of the two operas, underscoring Meera's roots when we see her again as a modern, assimilated Indian-American woman in the second opera, "River of Light", a role Kherani created at the opera's World Premiere at Houston Grand Opera.
In making her company debut, Kherani will be joined by three Festival Opera veterans, bass-baritone Philip Skinner, tenor Jorge Garza, and baritone Daniel Cilli. Skinner, who will portray Death in "Savitri", has been a frequent visitor to the Festival Opera stage since his company debut in 1999 as Raimondo in "Lucia di Lammermoor." Most recently, he was featured in Festival Opera's 2014 production of Ullmann's "The Emperor of Atlantis."
Garza, Satyavan in "Savitri", was first heard with the company in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 2008. His most recent appearance came in 2012 in "About Face An Opera Experience." Cilli returns to Festival Opera as Meera's American husband, Burton, in "River of Light", after making his debut earlier this season in "Ariadne auf Naxos."
Musically, the cast will be led by conductor John Kendall Bailey, one of whose lifelong ambitions has been to conduct Savitri in performance. His efforts will be supported by rising southern California stage director Tanya Kane-Perry, and by choreographer Antonia Minnecola, both making their company debuts, plus a wordless female chorus.
Joining the Festival Opera Chamber Orchestra for these performances are two Indian musicians playing traditional instruments, Nikhil Chaudhuri -- son of legendary tabla artist Swapan Chaudhuri -- on tabla, and international performer Arjun Verma on sitar.
Festival Opera's presentation of "Savitri" and "River of Light" is scheduled for three performances only:
Saturday, November 14 at 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 14 at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 15 at 4:00 p.m.
Oakland Asian Cultural Center
388 Ninth Street
The Oakland Asian Cultural Center is located at 388 Ninth Street between Franklin and Webster Street on the second floor of the Pacific Renaissance Plaza in Oakland's Chinatown.
Parking is available underground in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza.
Directions from BART
From BART, the closest BART station is 12th Street Station at Broadway in Oakland. Walk south on Broadway to 11th Street and turn left. Continue on 11th Street and turn right on Franklin to enter the Pacific Renaissance Plaza.
From the Lake Merritt BART Station. Exit at the 9th Street exit and walk west on 9th Street for 5 blocks to the Pacific Renaissance Plaza.
Oakland Asian Cultural Center (View)
388 9th St. 2nd Floor
Oakland, CA 94607
|Minimum Age: 8|
|Kid Friendly: Yes!|
|Dog Friendly: No|
|Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!|