In September, Seattle Opera will reprise its production of “An American Dream,” by composer Jack Perla and librettist Jessica Murphy Moo, which depicts the incarceration of Japanese Americans in the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor — providing “an essential second perspective for ‘Butterfly’ audiences.”
“We want to present opera in a way that reflects our time and place — so naturally, representing the diverse people of our region is important to us,” Lang said in the opera’s season announcement. “Whether it’s Verdi or Mozart on our mainstage, or an opera with Muslim or LGBTQ characters presented in our community — opera speaks to the experience of being human which we share. This is why it’s crucial to reduce historic barriers that have made our art form, at times, inaccessible.
The mainstage season unfurls with “Madame Butterfly,” by Giacomo Puccini, opening Aug. 5. Lang acknowledges that this story is problematic, thanks in part to some productions’ de-emphasis of Puccini’s anti-colonial sentiment and of his criticism of U.S. attitudes toward Japan. This well-regarded production, directed by Kate Cherry, is more faithful to the original intent, Lang said.”
Swimming Upstream, from Enormous Changes, was awarded the Grand Prize, jazz category, for the 2017 John Lennon Songwriting Competition, as well as a 2017 Lennon Award – a bi-annual prize matching category award-winners in consecutive years. The song is now in competition for 2017 Song of the Year, announced July 1. Wish me luck!
“During the months of April and May, our Music Section friends will explore various musical genres, styles, venues, and cultural eras. Being at UCLA, the only problem is to make choices between performances, artists, and amazing venues we have around us.”
“On Sunday April 23 at 4-6 PM, The UCLA Alpert School of Music presented “A Poet’s Cabaret,” at Schoenberg Hall. Jack Perla was the featured composer and pianist, with an amazing group of UCLA opera and voice students. In addition, Jeffrey Ho performed Perla’s (2010) beautiful sonatina, “Wait Here” in 4 movements (with some improv) accompanied by Mr. Perla. “Betty Box Office (2008) was performed by talented Julia Stuart, Thomas Hollow, and Christopher Hunter.”
If you had to leave your home today and couldn’t return, what would you take with you? Why is that object – that connection to your past – so important? A story of patriots and immigrants as WWII is comes to a close.
Opera Maine’s talented Studio Artists, will present four performances of Jack Perla’s opera An American Dream:
St. Lawrence Arts, Portland, Wednesday, July 12 and Friday, July 14 at 7:30 pm, $20/$12, stlawrencearts.org
Deertrees Theater, Harrison, Thursday, July 13 at 7:30 pm, $22/$16, www.deertrees-theatre.org TICKETS
The Temple, Ocean Park, Sunday, July 16 at 7:30pm, $15, oceanpark.org, Tickets available at the door.
Timothy Steele, Musical Director, celebrates his fourteenth season with Opera Maine. Since 1991 he has been on the opera faculty of New England Conservatory, and he has served as conductor/pianist for over 120 productions with numerous companies, including Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Central City Opera, and Wolf Trap Opera. He has conducted eight outreach tours with Boston Lyric Opera and was music director of Opera Providence.
Richard Gammon, Director, is the director of Opera Maine’s Young Artist Program (Gianni Schicchi, Trouble In Tahiti) and has also worked with the Young Artist Programs of the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Wolf Trap Opera Studio, Ash Lawn Opera, Opera North, and Virginia Opera. Other directing credits include: Ash Lawn Opera, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Manhattan School of Music, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Kentucky Lexington.
“On ‘Swimming Upstream’, the group creates an anxious, off-kilter feel as vocalist Jordan Carp’s tenor rides the rising and falling melody like a small craft on a stormy sea. The powerful voices of Crystal Monee Hall and Robin Coomer lend support, conjuring 1970s soul-jazz by Doug and Jeanne Carne and Bobby Hutcherson.”
Review: 2 Murderous Men in 2 Operas About Killing for Politics
Sean Panikkar in the title role of “Shalimar the Clown,” at Opera Theater of St. Louis. (Photo: Ken Howard)
By Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim |
St. LOUIS — Macbeth’s weapon of choice is a dagger: long, thin and apt for plunging into a sleeping man’s chest. Shalimar’s is a hunting knife that can gut a cafe guest in broad daylight and looks shockingly like those used in the Islamic State’s execution videos.
These chilling props appeared in two strong, unsettling productions I watched on successive evenings here at the Opera Theater of Saint Louis: Verdi’s “Macbeth” on Thursday, a day after “Shalimar the Clown,” a new opera based on Salman Rushdie’s novel about love and innocence lost against the brutal backdrop of sectarian violence in Kashmir. That work, commissioned by the company from the composer Jack Perla and the librettist Rajiv Joseph (best known as a playwright), was elegantly directed by James Robinson.
The current season here also includes lighter fare like “La Bohème” and “Ariadne auf Naxos.” But with the shock of the recent massacre in Orlando still in my bones, I experienced “Shalimar” and “Macbeth” as a dark double bill that demonstrated opera’s ability to force a listener to contemplate uncomfortable questions. Continue reading “”
‘Shalimar the Clown,’ ‘Ariadne on Naxos’ and ‘Macbeth’ at Opera Theatre Saint Louis
The world premiere of an opera based on a Salman Rushdie novel is topical, literary and theatrical.
Andriana Chuchman as Boonyi and Sean Panikkar as Shalimar. (Photo: Ken Howard)
By Heidi Waleson | June 14, 2016 | St. Louis
Jack Perla’s haunting “Shalimar the Clown,” which had its world premiere at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis on Saturday, succeeds at being topical, literary and theatrical. The libretto, the first for playwright Rajiv Joseph, best known for “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” is a remarkably succinct and faithful distillation of Salman Rushdie’s baroque, rage-filled novel. The book is essentially an extended metaphor for the destruction of Kashmir, which was torn apart in the wake of the partition of India into separate Muslim and Hindu states, and remains a battleground. Mr. Joseph and Mr. Perla have fleshed out Mr. Rushdie’s characters, making their anguish vividly personal while still profoundly symbolic.
A Paradise Lost, a Powerful ‘Shalimar the Clown,’ at Opera Theatre of St. Louis
Andriana Chuchman as Boonyi and Sean Panikkar as Shalimar perform in the world premiere of “Shalimar the Clown” for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. (Photo: Ken Howard)
By John von Rhein | June 21, 2016 | St. Louis
Giuseppe Verdi knew a thing or two about creating powerful operas around credibly human characters thrown into violent conflict. So, as it turns out, does the creative team responsible for adapting Salman Rushdie’s “Shalimar the Clown” for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis.
It is something of a happy accident, then, that the adaptation by composer Jack Perla and librettist Rajiv Joseph of the British-Indian author’s 2005 novel — commissioned for this, the company’s 41st season — should be playing in repertory with Verdi’s “Macbeth,” another operatic tragedy with flawed figures confronting their darker natures.
Each work gets a gripping production that exemplifies what this envelope-pushing, opera-in-English company does best: high-gloss music theater that speaks to the cultural and political issues of today.
“Shalimar the Clown,” the opera theatre’s 25th world premiere, is the latest in a series of company commissions of new works that weave together diverse cultural strands to tell contemporary stories that are topical, risky, complicated, sometimes controversial. General director Timothy O’Leary has made these pieces an essential part of the company’s mission of relevance.
The OTSL’s 2011 restaging of John Adams’ “The Death of Klinghoffer” revived a great American opera based on the murder of a wheelchair-bound Jewish man by Palestinian terrorists aboard a cruise ship. Terrence Blanchard’s “Champion,” mounted here in 2013, was about a gay African-American boxer. Neither work has been staged in Chicago, but they really should be. So should “Shalimar.”
FURIOUS TABLA PLAYING and a modern-dress chorus immediately set Shalimar the Clown apart from the rest of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’s standard-rep season. The opera, which received its world premiere on June 11 at the Loretto–Hilton Center, is part of the company’s “New Works, Bold Voices” initiative, which commissions American works based on contemporary source material—in this case, Salman Rushdie’s sprawling 2005 novel, which hops between ’80s L.A., ’60s Kashmir, Vichy France and points in between to explore how a lovestruck Indian–Muslim tightrope walker became an American chauffeur turned assassin.
Composer Jack Perla and librettist Rajiv Joseph open the show where most such tragic operas end: with a death, in this case, à la Carmen, a murder by knife. Perla borrows musically not from Spain, like Bizet, but from South Asia, blending the timbres of its instruments, including a sitar, into the orchestration while maintaining a contemporary-classical idiom, tonal or not as the drama demands. Continue reading “”
A Powerful World Premiere of ‘Shalimar the Clown’ at Opera Theater St. Louis, through June 25th
Sean Panikkar (Shalimar), Andriana Chuchman (Boonyi), in the world premiere of “Shalimar the Clown” at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. (Photo: Ken Howard)
By Steve Callahan | June 14, 2016 | St. Louis
A very major event occurred last night at Opera Theatre of St. Louis–the world premiere of Shalimar the Clown, an opera based on the novel by Salman Rushdie. This is a commissioned work, with music by Jack Perla and libretto by Rajiv Joseph.
The setting is primarily in Pachigam, a small village in the Vale of Kashmir (with a prologue and epilogue in California). The Vale of Kashmir is a place of legendary beauty–a lush valley replete with gardens, orchards, lakes and saffron fields, surrounded by the grandest, most beautiful mountains in the world. It nestles between India, Pakistan and China. Your grandparents would recall the sweet old parlor ballad penned in 1902, “Pale Hands I Loved Beside the Shalimar,” a song that conveyed the idyllic romance with which the world regarded Kashmir. (“Shalimar” is the name of a famed Mughal garden in Srinigar.) For centuries Kashmir was a peaceful land, where Hindus, Muslims and others lived in harmony–or what the natives call kashmiriyat. But since the partition of India in 1947 Kashmir has become a war-torn province filled with religious strife.
Our story deals with Shalimar, a young tight-rope walker in a folk theater troupe. He falls in love with Boonyi, a beautiful dancer. After they are discovered making love their fathers command that they be married to restore their honor. Others protest, because Shalimar is a Muslim and Boonyi a Hindu, but Shalimar’s father, a respected elder, says that such a wedding is acceptable in the spirit of kashmiriyat.
After the wedding, the American ambassador, Max Ophuls, visits and sees the troupe perform. He’s enchanted by Boonyi and invites her to dance in New Delhi. She is eager to escape her backward village. An affair blossoms between Ophuls and Boonyi; a baby is born. The rest of the story follows Shalimar and his thirst for vengeance against Boonyi, against Ophuls, and even against the daughter born of that illicit liaison. Shalimar is drawn into a radical Islamist band of rebels, where he becomes a skilled assassin. This man, who’s name means, in Sanskrit, “abode of love,” has become the abode of bitter, bloody vengeance. He pursues it for twenty-five years.
Composer Jack Perla is a jazz musician as well as a composer of opera, chamber and symphonic music. His beautifully orchestrated score for Shalimar reflects all of these genres as well, of course, as a strong thread of northern Indian music. The raga, that complex, cyclic idiom, is present throughout Shalimar. The orchestra is augmented by Arjun Verma on sitar and Javad Butah on tabla; they do beautiful work. A synthesizer adds to the Indian flavor with electronic versions of the santoor (a kind of hammer dulcimer), the tanpura (a larger drone cousin of the sitar), and the harmonium. All of this adds lovely flavor and richness to the score. In the final moment as Shalimar and the illegitimate daughter, India, stand armed and poised to kill each other these instruments engage in a supremely intense raga that supports the conflict beautifully.