Satyagraha returns to the Met in a highly acclaimed production
Production In a movement to expand the Met repertory Peter Gelb has brought never performed modern and baroque operas to the Met. This year he brings back Phillip Glass's masterpiece Satyagraha after a sold out run. In an attempt to bring it to the regular repertory Gelb has revived these productions more frequently than usual. The production by Phelim McDermott is made up of video projections, improvisational puppetry by a small ensemble of movement performers. Newspaper is also used in a variety of ways including the use of it for a series of large puppets which represent the oppression of minorities in South Africa. According to director McDermott, these puppets are supposed to be grotesque and yet comical. In addition the newspapers are also an inspiration of the way Gandhi used to promote his message on the media. An original aspect of this production is that there are no subtitles even though the opera is written and sung in Sanskrit. According to McDermott the opera is a meditation and therefore having subtitles distracts from the experience. When the production opened in 2008 it was hailed as a stunning and captivating production as well as a visually inventive work of art. The production is a co-production with the English National opera.
Richard Croft reprises the role of Gandhi after a successful run of Das Rheingold. Croft has a lyric tenor voice that is capable of conveying joy and sadness. Last year when I saw Croft in the role of Loge, Croft was thrilling, funny and most importantly credible. As an actor he is excellent and when on stage he becomes the character and one forgets that one is watching Richard Croft. A committed performer it was reported that Croft lost 100 pounds to prepare for the role of Gandhi. When Croft sang Gandhi in 2008 he was hailed for investing himself in the role with fitting, and radiant simplicity. In addition critics hailed him for his subtly and his plaintive tones.
Rachelle Durkin who has been at the Met for a long time returns to the role Miss Schlesen. Last year Durkin failed to impress replacing Anna Netrebko in the role of Norina in Don Pasquale as her vocal line was unfocused and shrill. However this was not the case when she sang the role of Miss. Schlesen, Gandhi's scottish secretary. In this role she carried the top vocal line impressively.
Alfred Walker and Kim Josephson also join the cast and Dante Anzolini returns to the podium to conduct Phillip Glass's score as enthusiastically as he did in 2008. Anzolini was criticized for his slow tempos and for not making the orchestra's presence felt at times. However, Anzolini was still able to keep the urgency that Glass's music has.
Glass is not an easy composer as his music gets repetitive. No matter how vivid the production is it won't convert traditional opera goers. However if you are looking for modern music from one of today's masters, Satygraha is a good idea.
Satyagraha will be presented in HD this year as part of the Live in HD series.