The Metropolitan Opera announced that its co-production of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha with the English National Opera will debut next season on April 11, 2008.   The ENO is doing nine performances of Satyagraha this April.  Written in 1980, Satyagraha is based on Gandhi’s formative years in South Africa, as he developed his philosophy of nonviolent protest as a powerful force for change. It is the second work in the ”portrait” trilogy by Glass, which also includes Einstein on the Beach (1975) and Akhnaten (1983-84).  Satyagraha involves the director Phelim McDermott and the designer Julian Crouch, two of the three artistic directors of the visionary British theater company Improbable.

On the bad news front, the Met has dumped a scheduled revival of Tobias Picker’s honorable An American Tragedy in favor of Tan Dun’s terminally lame The First Emperor, apparently because it has a chance to take the production on the road to China. 

It’s great to see that Peter Gelb is going with artistic merit and not being tempted by the possibility of big crowds and big bucks.

9 thoughts on “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?”
  1. Actually, I did see The First Emperor–or, at least, the first act. Saw all of Tragedy and rather liked it. No Emmeline but so few are.

  2. Not that the current Chinese government would ever be likely to let it in, but I think it would be a fantastically cool and strange if the Met could mount Adams’ Nixon in China, just to see the reaction.

  3. It’s great that the Met is doing Satyagraha, but unfortunately those of us in the hinterlands won’t be able to see it as part of the Met’s HD broadcasts. I guess they view it as having much less appeal than traditional works, and don’t want to threaten their growing success story with the broadcasts.

    I really wish other opera companies would emulate the Met and try out some of their own HD broadcast productions, particularly of newer works. If the Met can sell out two fairly large movie theatres in the Maryland suburbs where I live, then I suspect that somebody else could schedule a broadcast into a single smaller theatre and get a reasonable turnout. Having seen two Met broadcasts thus far (First Emperor and Eugene Onegin) I can testify that it’s a great way to see productions for those of us who don’t have the opportunity to see them in person, and at less than $30 per person it’s a real bargain.

  4. I’ve seen both productions and can say I would much rather sit through the “lame” Emperor again than the overblown and dull Tragedy. Neither is particularly profound but at least there was something to look at and about 30 minutes of great music which is easily a 500% improvement on Picker’s opera. (That is if you don’t count a shirtless Nathan Gunn, but those cheap thrills are readily available in any Billy Budd.)

  5. According to the Washington Post, Tan is revising the score for the revival. While I haven’t heard the Picker, I feel like a lot of The First Emperor‘s problems should be fixable.

  6. “terminally lame” ???!!??

    Jerry, I’m not trying to start a fight here (OK maybe I am :)…) but did you actually get to see/hear The First Emperor or are you basing your opinion on what others had to say about it? I’ve been quickly foraging through the Seq21 archives and can’t find any record of your reaction, but I easily could have missed something… If I have missed it, accept the apology in advance; but if the comment is solely based on the opinions of others, how can you justify the experientially unsubstantiated epithet “terminally lame”?

  7. In fairness to Peter Gelb, who has generally speaking been doing great work, there’s real institutional value to touring China both in terms of finances and in terms of cultivating a future foreign audience. Plus, it seems possible that while the critics liked the Picker better than the Dun the audience might have felt differently. Anybody have any actual info that confirms or discredits this theory? If in fact the audience did like the Dun better, programming it instead of the Picker is both fiscally wise AND artistically responsible and valid.

  8. Well, on the other hand, when was the last time the Metropolitan Opera performed two American operas [ca. 8% of repertoire], in a single season?

    [Or will the Philip Glass and Tan Dun operas only be in the same calendar year?]

  9. “in favor of Tan Dun’s terminally lame The First Emperor, apparently because it has a chance to take the production on the road to China.”

    Boo! Hiss!

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