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“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.”

“Mr. Joseph and Mr. Perla have fleshed out Mr. Rushdie’s characters, making their anguish vividly personal while still profoundly symbolic.”

“The jangly, icy opening scene in 1989 Los Angeles, where Shalimar accomplishes one of his goals, dissolves into a luxuriantly tonal language for Kashmir in 1964.”

“Winter Has Frozen Us Over Again,” a heartbreaking, mournful duet for Shalimar and Boonyi, carries with it the death of idealism…”

“Mr. Perla’s subtle use of tabla and sitar grounds the characters in their South Asian heritage; so does his occasional melismatic vocal writing.”

— Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal – June, 2016

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“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.”

In the Kashmiri scenes, the addition of a sitar and tabla injects South Asian color into the orchestra textures. The nervous vibrancy of that music contrasts with the cool shimmer of the Los Angeles scenes, with suspended dissonances that evoke film noir.”

“…genuinely out-of-the-box composing, like the sharply drawn duel of wits between Boonyi (Andriana Chuchman) and the cunning, blackmailing schoolteacher (Geoffrey Agpalo).”

— Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times – June, 2016

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“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.”

“As is the case with “Klinghoffer,” a deep sense of our common humanity resonates across the increasingly grim narrative of “Shalimar,” splendidly performed in a brilliant staging by James Robinson…”

“In Perla and Joseph’s skillful condensation of the 300-page novel, with a story told largely in flashback, we learn how naive love can morph into murderous obsession.”

“This is risky, uncomfortable stuff — how could it not be, given the issues raised? The important thing is that the opera works. Perla’s accessible, eclectic, conservatively tonal music helps to soften the grim narrative, rescuing it from bald melodrama.”

“His score incorporates the local color of Indian ragas, played on the sitar and tabla, conspiring with Joseph’s taut libretto to invest Rushdie’s heartbreaking lament with the dramatic resonance of modern Shakespearean tragedy.”

“…a most accomplished piece of music theater.”

“New operas come and go, but “Shalimar” is a keeper.”

— John von Rhein, The Chicago Tribune — June, 2016

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“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.”

“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.”

“Shalimar is a subcontinental Romeo and Juliet in which an appeal to shared regional identity triumphs briefly over religious division. It includes in Act I a rejection of fundamentalism, set by Perla in soaring choral music.” 

“It’s an Orfeo of the twentieth century, as if there could be no artistic redemption after World War II—no god left alive to be persuaded to clemency by the sweetness of Orpheus’ lyre. Shalimar feels rooted in the operatic tradition it acknowledges and subverts.”

“Joseph …neatly compressed Rushdie’s novel for the stage in Act I, retaining much of its plot and themes without being their slave. The story loses some of its complexity and thus its depth, but Perla compensated, letting the music fill in the blank spaces, integrating reflective arias into the propulsive plot with the finesse of Puccini.”

“Shalimar the Clown felt topical and thus urgent in a way that other very good recent American operas, such as Cold Mountain or JFK, have not. Contemporary relevance gives good music-drama an edge.” 

—Henry Stewart, Opera News – June, 2016

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“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.”

“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.”

“There is lovely, sensual music for Boonyi’s dances. There is much that is lyrical. At times there is a busy, troubled undercurrent. There are fine arias and duets and there are gorgeous numbers for the chorus.”

“…the musical and vocal virtues of Shalimar the Clown are enough to make it deserve the thunderous applause with which the curtain call was met.”

—Steve Callahan, KDHX — June, 2016

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“This riveting new work by composer Jack Perla and librettist Rajiv Joseph is not so much a towering achievement, as another astonishing over-achievement from this committed and tireless company.”

“Like OTSL’s Champion and 27 before it, Shalimar the Clown seems destined for further greatness.”

“…a restless, unnerving score replete with profound dramatic declamations but also colored with serenely beautiful melismatic phrases.”

“Perla has masterfully crafted a score that truly sings, and which sounds like nothing else in the operatic canon.”

“The piece is beautifully, virtuosically scored, showcasing a rich palette of the “usual” operatic band ably augmented by the addition of a sitar (Arjun Verma) and tabla (Javad Butah). The two “local color” instruments were ingratiating without being overwhelming.”

“…The choral writing was simply splendid and under Robert Ainsley’s tutelage, the cast excelled in countless moments of incomparably beautiful ensemble singing.”

“Complicated social and political developments are served up with bold strokes in the music and stirring pictures in the staging.”

“…the single-mindedness and obsession of the title character is even more potent as the music-making winnows down to a laser-accurate simplicity of purpose.”

“Composer Jack Perla has crafted a uniquely atmospheric score using tonal palettes and instrumental effects that run the gamut from soothing to shocking to pleasing to disturbing to violent and back again.”

—James Sohre, Opera Today — June, 2016

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“… a remarkably nuanced and complex musical palette, with scenes that have some of the interwoven thematic density of Western serial style, and others that sound like an Indian-inflected pastoral.” 

“The hybrid of musical elements allows Perla to chart, in clear musical terms, how the young Shalimar—a Muslim boy in love with Boonyi, a Hindu girl—becomes the older, vicious Shalimar of the opening scene.”

“After the explosive and richly chromatic depiction of the murder, the musical language shifts to something far simpler, and hypnotic—a juxtaposition of musical elements repeated throughout the opera.”

“Perla’s musical vocabulary also allows him to tell the deeper story of Rushdie’s novel, about the loss of paradise, the corruption of stable multicultural and interfaith communities, and the dead-end seductions of religious fundamentalism.”

“Verdi insisted that the essence of an operatic subject was strongly defined characters and intense, violent conflicts. Shalimar provides both.” 

“…belongs to a new and evolving meaning of “operatic” that encompasses works such as “The Death of Klinghoffer”, and Steve Reich’s “Cave”. And now, one can add Blanchard’s “Champion” and Perla’s “Shalimar”. Operatic, in this sense, is more than drama on the boil; it is drama with a purpose—drama that can function only through the multivalent, polyphonic possibilities of music.”

—Philip Kennicott, Opera News — June 2016

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“…In “Shalimar the Clown,” based on the novel by Salman Rushdie, composer Jack Perla went a step further, using traditional Indian instruments and musical forms to create a successful synthesis in its effective and sometimes beautiful score.”

“Perla has written big, complex choruses, discrete arias and duets, and other music that consistently complements and carries the story in all its locations. The sitar, performed by Arjun Verma, and the tabla, played by Javad Butah, are well-integrated in the score, always informing, but never overpowering, the orchestra.”

—Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch – June 2016

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“Perla’s score, for a quintet of Indian and Western instruments, is a subtly cross-pollinated marvel, blending long, arching melodies with bursts of coloratura in ways that never seem forced.”

“Meera’s anguished central aria about feeling marooned in a land far from her family and traditions took wing on the strength of Perla’s tender writing and Kherani’s stirring performance.”

— Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle — November 2015

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“Jack Perla’s “River of Light” made the space come alive.” 

“The opera is dynamic from its opening Kathak dance…”

“His versatility as a composer shines in River of Light…”

“…rarely is rhythm so present in opera.”

— Rebecca Wishnia, San Francisco Classical Voice — November 2015

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“Full of impressionist and minimalist impulses, with washes of color and repeated motoric elements, it sounded like a meeting of Debussy and Philip Glass.”

“An American Dream is a gripping piece of musical theater, and in the program Seattle Opera announces the availability of this uniquely Northwest piece to tour in small venues throughout the community. It’s hard to think of a better way to teach local history.”

— Melinda Bargreen, The Seattle Times — August 2015

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“It’s a triumph. It’s riveting. It’s unsettling and uncomfortable. It’s strong. For many it will be emotional.”

“…an atmospheric score which surrounds but never overwhelms the voices….”

“The whole was a tour de force, which must return, soon.”

— Philippa Kiraly, City Arts Seattle — August 2015

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“A very personal album from a cat that has had his share of enormous changes over the last few years, Perla takes a break from his opera world commissions and heads back to late 60s jazz rock for a mental and spiritual cleansing that finds him right in the pocket of pre-fusion where the seeds were being sown.” 

—Chris Spector, Midwest Record — June 2015

“Jazz songs, originals, with the wit and charm of Joni Mitchell and the pop precision of Sting.”

— Hobart Taylor, KUCI — June 2015

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“The evening’s high point came in soprano Marina Boudart Harris’ arching, emotionally urgent solo as Laura’s former lover, Samantha. It’s a wonderful evocation of true love, with all its exhilaration and heartache, and Boudart Harris sang it radiantly.”

“He alternates bursts of tango, blues and soft-shoe with longer stretches of lyrical rhapsodizing or swift, functional recitative. Perla writes a witty instrumental fantasia on telephone ring tones and a deft Sondheimesque opening ensemble, then weaves a beautiful four-voice coda to close the piece.”

As the two lovers, baritone Ao Li and mezzo-soprano Laura Krumm moved deftly from crisp, jazzy patter to long-breathed lyricism and back again. Tenor Thomas Glenn was a dashing, insinuating Death and a poignant figure as George’s wounded former boyfriend.”

— Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle — June 2012

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“A superb pianist…”

— Dan Ouelette, Downbeat

“…Jazz pianist Jack Perla’s genius is composition.”

— Rob Pratt, Metro Santa Cruz

“Perla’s performance had a fine, sophisticated ring to it. This is a superb instrumental mix…”

— Phil Elwood, The San Francisco Examiner

“As a pianist, Perla is a study of appealing contrasts, capable for instance, of both delicacy and rhythmic thrust in the same piece…”

— Charles Hutchinson, Jazz Now Magazine

“The world premiere was Jack Perla’s “Trane of Thought”, which is infectious and immediately likeable.”

— Chris Salocks, The Oakland Tribune

“Ms. Way’s “On a Train Heading South,” set to a score by Jack Perla, is mesmerizing…”

–- Gia Kourlas, The New York Times

“Despite legendary divas and drama queens, opera is still in the closet in a lot of ways. Not so with Love / Hate…”

–- Lewis Whittington, EDGE

“An intelligent and landmark album. ‘Swimming Lessons for the Dead’ is a showcase for Perla’s musical vision and features his dynamic piano talent.”

— Jazz Online

“Brilliant new CD. A first-rate post-bop piano stylist, as well as a composer of great vision.”

— Lee Hildebrand, The Express

“The album’s (Invisible City) centerpiece is the 15-minute title track(by Jack Perla), a complex suite-like piece that unfolds with unerring logic.”

— Andrew Gilbert, San Jose Mercury News