Philip Glass' Satyagraha: Sounds are beautiful, but stamina is required. | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Philip Glass' Satyagraha: Sounds are beautiful, but stamina is required.

Posted by on Tue, Dec 6, 2011 at 2:43 PM

SATYAGRAHA
The Met Live in HD, live in theaters Nov. 19
Rebroadcast 6:30 p.m. Dec. 7
Regal Brier Creek, North Hills, Crossroads

Philip Glass is one of those artists who make you work for the satisfaction that is ultimately to be found in his music. His 1980 opera Satyagraha is no exception. Although it is based on Mahatma Gandhi’s early adult years in South Africa, where Gandhi developed his techniques for non-violent protest, the opera is highly abstracted, and lacks a narrative through-line even though the scenes are chronologically arranged. Unless you know a great deal about Gandhi, the basis of his ideas, Indian theologies and the history of the British Empire in India and Africa, you must rely on the program to make sense of the scenes.

The vocal text (by Constance DeJong) is unlikely to help: It is in Sanskrit. Satyagraha also includes, like all of Glass’ work, innumerable passages of repeated note sequences that make you nearly crazy before resolving themselves and kicking you to a higher plane of consciousness.

The Metropolitan Opera has just completed a run of performances of Satyagraha, including a matinee for the Nov. 19 live broadcast, using the inventive 2008 staging by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch that includes quirky, surprisingly emotive, design and fabulous large scale puppetry by The Skills Ensemble.

Visually the work seduces and thrills. The movement is magisterial, mythic, infused with changing energies by the colors of light, props and costumes. You don’t really have to “make sense” of the scenes: Just go with the flow of energy. “Satyagraha” means “truth-force,” and the truth is in the music as well as the visual and kinetic aspects of the opera.

Could there be a better composer than Glass to musically tell the story of Gandhi, who spent a lifetime making slow structural change? In Gandhi’s life and work (as in the South Africa of the apartheid era, when Glass was writing), there was a lot of repetition before social shift could occur; the patterns of Glass’ music mirror this.

The sounds are beautiful, but stamina is required for the journey. There is of course more to the cast, but it is Richard Croft as Gandhi who’s unforgettable. He and orchestra conductor Dante Anzolini, with his deep experience with Glass’ work, seem to have been on just the same wavelength, because the mesh of orchestral and vocal sound was particularly tight during Croft’s many long solos. The staging involves projected texts (minimal) and, in the cinema version, subtitles, but they can’t detract from the mystical quality of the sound of the Sanskrit words sung in resonant tones over and over. You emerge from the theater at the end as if returning from a long meditation session.

If you plan to attend the encore performance, you may want to check out this Met Opera page beforehand. The cast sheet and synopsis are here.

Here's a slideshow trailer for the opera:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

...as did I, Ms. Margolis -- in a very small handful of moments over a two and a half hour …

by Byron Woods, INDY Theater and Dance Critic on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

I certainly heard the accents.

by Elizabeth A Margolis on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

Most Recent Comments

...as did I, Ms. Margolis -- in a very small handful of moments over a two and a half hour …

by Byron Woods, INDY Theater and Dance Critic on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

I certainly heard the accents.

by Elizabeth A Margolis on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

Nice write up. Love the twists and turns and I hardily agree with the ultimate statement (and Camus since I …

by Perry on As the Durham Bulls Enter the Playoffs, We Wonder: What Exactly Is the Value of a Minor-League Championship? (Arts)

Just saw this last night. Did Rubin say that being around the Avetts would make life "matter" or just that …

by Drew Rhys on Full Frame: An Avetts Agnostic Finds Some Faith in May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers (Arts)

She made me a peanut butter and banana sandwichwithout bread. Now that's art.

by Geoff Dunkak on ADF Review: Queering Objects and Decoding the Body in Cherdonna's Clock that Mug or Dusted (Arts)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation