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Pwyll ap SiƓn
Gramophone, September 2013

THE SPECIALIST’S GUIDE TO…Minimalist and post-minimal opera # 6

Glass’s second opera saw a return to more conventional practice—a work for orchestra, chorus and soloists with even the makings of a ‘plot’, namely Gandhi’s exiled years in South Africa (1893–1914). In fact, Satyagraha’s tableaux-like structure resembles the quasi-operatic design of Bach’s Passions, further supported by Glass’s use of Baroque-like chaconne bass patterns and harmonic sequences. Something of a ‘slow burner’, Satyagraha has recently seen ENO and Met co-productions, confirming its standing as a real classic. © 2013 Gramophone

Penguin Guide, January 2009

Philip Glass’s second opera, Satyagraha, is a curiosity, an opera with virtually no plot, using a text in Sanskrit, a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi as peace-maker. Glass seeks to Gandhi’s involvement in South Africa in the years between 1893 and 1914 as a comment on latter-day political and religious problems. Glass and Constance de Jong based the libretto on the ancient Indian didactic poem, Bhagavadgita, ‘Song of the Blessed One’, much quoted by Gandhi. The title Satyagraha means ‘dedication to the truth’, and each of the three long Acts, almost an hour each, has a superscription paying tribute to other leaders, Tolstoy, the poet Rabindranath Tagore, and Martin Luther King. Reflecting Glass’s minimalist score, the dream-like staging involves little movement, though Glass’s detailed inventiveness induces a hypnotic effect, clearly related to oriental meditation. Dennis Russell Davis with an excellent cast, led by three singers sharing the role of Gandhi, conducts a persuasive performance.

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