New Camerata Opera presents Holst's Savitri and Blow's Venus & Adonis
This November, as a new anchor partner with The Flea Theater in TriBeCa, New Camerata Opera will present a double-bill of Gustav Holst's Savitri and John Blow's Venus and Adonis. The production will be directed by Jennifer Williams, whose immersive productions have garnered praise around the world and in Washington D.C., as founder and Artistic Director of Public Opera, and where she recently had her debut with Washington National Opera. Music Director Stephan Fillare will lead the ensemble and cast from his instrument without the aid of a conductor. Performances will take place November 29th and December 1st at 7:30pm, and December 2nd at 2:30pm in The Sam Theater at The Flea.
"The two works may seem vastly different," says music director Stephan Fillare, "but they share many commonalities." While Venus and Adonis certainly has more characters, the story centers around three main characters: Venus, Adonis and Cupid. Savitri is completely devoted to its three main characters: Death, Savitri, and Satyavan. "Nothing is lost by paring down an opera to three characters; instead we get a much more concentrated drama. We feel in real time what the characters are going through. The characters of Venus and Savitri are both strong women with overlapping personalities. Each woman reacts to death in different ways: Savitri quite literally confronts and convinces death to leave her husband alone, while Venus, independent and self-assured, implores her lover Adonis to leave her side, so that they won't grow tired of one another, not knowing it will lead to his ultimate doom. But unlike (Purcell's) Dido, when left with the ordeal of his death, Venus chooses to honor him in life and mourn his death until she can join him."
"Though the operas reflect differing historical moments and geographies," adds director Jennifer Williams, "the themes of the fragility of life and resilience of love tie them together. The stories are photonegatives of each other: Venus and Adonis reveals life to be a fragile artifice, and Savitri reveals death to be an illusion." Williams plans to evoke these themes through an immersive production in collaboration with projection designer Yee Eun Nam and costumer Asa Benally. " Venus & Adonis will be performed as "modern-day court entertainment, where we see all the mechanics of theater, through a Baroque-meets-MTV lens." Savitri poses some unique challenges in that Holst created his own adaptation of the episode [of the Mahabharata] , despite a weak grasp of Sanskrit, that reflected his interest in "universalizing" the story. "It's a very problematic approach to storytelling - which means we need to be thoughtful in how we engage with the adaptation and bring it to life onstage. To start with, we saw this as an opportunity for representation - which is much needed on operatic stages more generally. In both operas, we cast really talented artists of diverse backgrounds, including artists of South Asian heritage in the roles of Savitri, Satyavan and Death as well as in various roles in Venus and Adonis. I want to make this story inclusive."
In addition to Savitri and Venus & Adonis, New Camerata Opera will produce an "off-night" single performance entitled "The Enchantress & Bombay Rickey Meets the Psychology of Desire" on November 30th at 7:30pm, showcasing original works by and performances from Dr. Kamala Sankaram. The evening will feature Sankaram's one-act opera "The Enchantress", based on the life of Ada Lovelace, who is credited as the world's first computer programmer. The second half of the evening will feature Bombay Rickey, a five-piece band encompassing the sounds of surf rock, cumbia, spaghetti-Western, and Bollywood - balanced out with soaring operatic vocals from Sankaram.
Savitri and Venus & Adonis: http://theflea.org/shows/venus-adonis-and-savitri/
The Enchantress & Bombay Rickey: http://theflea.org/shows/enchantressbombayrickey/