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 â€œShalimar the Clown,â€ at Opera Theater of St. Louis.Â (Photo: Ken Howard)
ByÂ Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim |Â
St. LOUIS â€” Macbethâ€™s weapon of choice is a dagger: long, thin and apt for plunging into a sleeping manâ€™s chest. Shalimarâ€™s is a hunting knife that can gut a cafe guest in broad daylight and looks shockingly like those used in the Islamic Stateâ€™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: Verdiâ€™s â€œMacbethâ€ on Thursday, a day after â€œShalimar the Clown,â€ a new opera based on Salman Rushdieâ€™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 â€œLa BohÃ¨meâ€ and â€œAriadne auf Naxos.â€ But with the shock of the recent massacre in Orlando still in my bones, I experienced â€œShalimarâ€ and â€œMacbethâ€ as a dark double bill that demonstrated operaâ€™s ability to force a listener to contemplate uncomfortable questions. Continue reading “”
â€˜Shalimar the Clown,â€™ â€˜Ariadne on Naxosâ€™ and â€˜Macbethâ€™ 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.Â (Photo: Ken Howard)
By Heidi Waleson |Â June 14, 2016 | St. Louis
Jack Perlaâ€™s haunting â€œShalimar the Clown,â€ 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 â€œBengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,â€ is a remarkably succinct and faithful distillation of Salman Rushdieâ€™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. Rushdieâ€™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 â€œShalimar the Clownâ€ for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis.Â (Photo: Ken Howard)
ByÂ John von Rhein |Â 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 â€” commissioned for this, the company’s 41st season â€” 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 PLAYINGÂ and a modern-dress chorus immediately setÂ Shalimar the ClownÂ apart from the rest of Opera Theatre of Saint Louisâ€™s standard-rep season. The opera, which received its world premiere on June 11 at the Lorettoâ€“Hilton Center, is part of the companyâ€™s â€œNew Works, Bold Voicesâ€ initiative, which commissions American works based on contemporary source materialâ€”in this case, Salman Rushdieâ€™s sprawling 2005 novel, which hops between â€™80s L.A., â€™60s Kashmir, Vichy France and points in between to explore how a lovestruck Indianâ€“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, Ã laÂ 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 â€˜Shalimar the Clownâ€™ at Opera Theater St. Louis, through June 25th
Sean Panikkar (Shalimar), Andriana Chuchman (Boonyi), in the world premiere of â€œShalimar the Clownâ€ at Opera Theatre of St. Louis.Â (Photo: Ken Howard)
ByÂ Steve Callahan |Â June 14, 2016 |Â 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 andÂ 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.
In its compact forty-year history, the ambitious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has just triumphantly presented its twenty-fifth world premiere with Shalimar the Clown.
This riveting new work by composer Jack Perla and librettist Rajiv Joseph (based on Salman Rushdieâ€™s novel of the same name) is not so much a towering achievement, as another astonishing over-achievement from this committed and (apparently) tireless company. Like OTSLâ€™s Champion and 27 before it, Shalimar the Clown seems destined for further greatness.
That is owing to not only a restless, unnerving score replete with profound dramatic declamations but also colored with serenely beautiful melismatic phrases. Mr. Joseph as crafted a lean skeleton of a libretto that connects all of the major occurrences with uncanny precision. And composer 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 â€œusualâ€ operatic band ably augmented by the addition of a sitar (Arjun Verma) and tabla (Javad Butah). Continue reading “”