Philip Glass’s inspirational opera Satyagraha (Sanskrit for “truth force”), in the first revival of Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch’s innovative 2008 production, airs on THIRTEEN’s Great Performances at the Met Sunday, March 25 at 12 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). In New York, THIRTEEN will premiere the program Thursday, March 22 at 8:30 p.m. with an encore presentation Sunday, March 25 at 12:30 p.m.
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The opera, which earned exceptional praise in its Met premiere, is based on Mahatma Gandhi’s early life in South Africa, where he developed the revolutionary philosophy of non-violent resistance that continues to be used in protests around the world. “Almost all the techniques of protest—now the common currency of contemporary political life—were invented and perfected by Gandhi during his South Africa years,” Glass has said.
The program was originally seen live in movie theaters on November 19 as part of the groundbreaking The Met: Live in HD series, which transmits live performances to more than 1700 movie theaters and performing arts centers in 54 countries around the world.
Great Performances at the Met is a presentation of THIRTEEN for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers. For nearly 50 years, WNET has been producing and broadcasting national and local arts programming to the New York community.
McDermott and Crouch’s production uses a combination of large-scale puppetry, sets made of materials such as corrugated metal and newspaper, and projected supertitles to immerse the viewer in Glass’s poetic world. Conductor Dante Anzolini leads a cast that features Richard Croft, reprising his critically acclaimed interpretation of Gandhi.
Satyagraha is divided into three acts, each inspired by a major historical figure: the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, the Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore, and the American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The plot of the opera follows Gandhi through his formative years as a young attorney in South Africa, where his firsthand experience of racial inequality inspired him to create the movement of non-violent resistance that would define his life and work. The Sanskrit libretto, by Glass and Constance DeJong, is taken from the Bhaghavad Gita. Croft is joined by two of the other leads of the Met premiere production, Rachelle Durkin as Miss Schlesen and Alfred Walker as Parsi Rustomji, and Kim Josephson in the role of Mr. Kallenbach.
The opera is the second part of Glass’s famous trilogy of operas about important historical figures, which also includes Einstein on the Beach (1976) and Akhnaten (1983). Satyagraha is the second Glass opera to be performed at the Met, following The Voyage, a Met commission that premiered in 1992.
Conductor Anzolini is a leading interpreter of Glass’s work; in addition to the Met premiere of this opera, he has conducted critically acclaimed performances of The White Raven in Lisbon and at the Lincoln Center Festival; Symphony No. 5 in Brussels and at the Kennedy Center; Akhnaten at Opéra du Rhin in Strasbourg, France; and the European premiere of Symphony No. 8 with the Bruckner Orchestra Linz in Austria.
In addition to singing the central role of Gandhi in the Met premiere of Satyagraha, Croft has sung numerous roles at the Met, including Loge in the 2010 new production premiere of Das Rheingold, Cassio in Otello, Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Ferrando in Così fan tutte, and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. Durkin, a graduate of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, debuted in the Met premiere of Wolf-Ferrari’s Sly in 2002 and most recently sang Norina in Don Pasquale during the 2010-11 season. Walker’s Met repertory includes roles in Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mktsensk, Ravel’s L’enfant et Les Sortilèges, and the Met premiere of Busoni’s Doktor Faust. Kim Josephson’s 244 performances with the Met have included the new production premieres of La Fanciulla del West, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Otello, Andrea Chénier, and Carmen, and the Met premieres of Strauss’s Capriccio and Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge.
Bass-baritone Eric Owens hosts. Barbara Willis Sweete directs the telecast.
Great Performances is funded by the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation. Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®.
For the Met, Mia Bongiovanni and Elena Park are Supervising Producers, and Louisa Briccetti and Victoria Warivonchik are Producers. Peter Gelb is Executive Producer. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is Series Producer; David Horn is Executive Producer.