Drama with a Purpose

Jack Perla and Rajiv Joseph’s new work for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Shalimar the Clown, based on Salman Rushdie’s novel, aims for the power of grand opera and the impact of contemporary relevance.


By Philip Kennicott • Illustration by Nigel Buchanan

WITHIN THE FIRST FEW PAGES of Salman Rushdie’s 2005 novel, Shalimar the Clown, an elegant, elderly and cosmopolitan Jewish man is brutally murdered in the streets of Los Angeles. He is killed by his Muslim chauffeur, a man from Kashmir who has nursed a toxic combination of fanaticism, hate and revenge. The victim’s daughter discovers her father’s body moments after the execution: “His throat had been slashed so violently that the weapon, one of his Sabatier kitchen knives, which had been dropped beside his corpse, had all but severed his head.” Continued…