Monday, November 21, 2011

The Force of Truth, Satyagraha

The opera, Satyagraha, is as theatrically amazing as this still with puppets suggests. Philip Glass wrote the opera in the 1980s. The Met's new production which was simulcast on Saturday was an astonishing, moving and unforgettable experience. The story, such as it is, shows Gandhi during his years in South Africa -- the formative years during which he began his leadership of nonviolent protest.

Without dialog, but with brilliant staging, program notes and a few date and event subtitle, the story is nevertheless told powerfully to Glass's insistent music which underlies the singing of verses from the Bagavadgita all in Sanskrit. Although the music was never static, it was repetitious but the events moved along, sometimes because the twelve-person special effects group did amazing things with the many puppets, with simple newspaper, cellophane tape, actual fire on state. Robert Croft became Gandhi although he is far from a tiny little Indian man with big ears. Through acting, clothing and the audience's willing suspension of disbelief, Croft and the large chorus became a morality play.

Driving home I thought what a rich, varied, thought provoking, wonderful life I have found here where I thought there would be little compared to the richness of New York City. I planned to see the opera on my own, but, in fact, Rachel was given a pair of tickets by a season subscriber who was possibly afraid to venture into something new. His loss, our gain. It was Rachel's first opera. She enjoyed it. She is both socially conscious and theatrically knowledgeable and open to new music. This was a far cry from my hope to introduce her to opera with, possibly The Barber of Seville or The Magic Flute.

Gandhi's example lives in the current "Occupy" movement that has sprung up and that is currently in danger of being crushed by various municipalities. The needs of the many continue to demand attention in the face of the greed of the 1% just as was true in the beginning of the last century. 4,000 years ago the Bagavadgita spoke of truths that have endured despite all the wars and massive injustices that have characterized what we call civilization. Wisdom exists, but so few look for it and act on it.


Conda V. Douglas said...

Wow, what an amazing opera, I'll have to watch for it to come here to Boise!

June Calender said...

Condaa, the Met simulcasts are sometimes shown on video at a date later than the original -- watch your local art theatre, or even ask them if the some the Met operas either as simulcasts or subsequent videos.