River of Light

Opera in One Act (2013)
Libretto by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Four Voices; Vn; Vc; Tabla; Sitar; Piano/Keyboard
Duration: 30″
Full Score :: Piano Vocal Score :: Libretto
Commissioned by Houston Grand Opera
Premiere date: March 29, 2014, Houston Grand Opera, David Hanlon , conductor
Maya Kherani, soprano; Alissa Albertson, mezzo-soprano; Samuel Levine, tenor; Michael Sumuel, baritone

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.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s stories have been adapted for stage, film and dance, but this was the first time the prize-winning author has created a theatrical work from scratch. Meera, the opera’s central character, is Westernized and feels at home in Houston. She’s a busy executive; her American husband, Burton, is an artist.  Meera has drifted from Indian traditions in building her career. When she and Burton have their first child, though, she feels cut off from a whole tradition of women’s wisdom that has come down to her from her grandmother and mother. Meera wants her daughter’s first Diwali to be special, but she doesn’t have the lamps and foods the celebration requires, nor does she know where to find them.

River of Light employs a small cast and a five-player instrumental group, and its story unfolds in about 30 minutes. The score draws extensively on North Indian ragas and the quintet that accompanies “River of Light” mixes Western instruments with sitar and the tabla.