LA Opera to Present West Coast Premiere of THUMBPRINT About Human Rights Activist Mukhtar Mai
LA Opera's 2016/17 season will conclude with the West Coast premiere of Thumbprint, an opera by composer Kamala Sankaram and librettist Susan Yankowitz about Pakistani human rights activist Mukhtar Mai.
Part of LA Opera's innovative Off Grand series, Thumbprint is the latest offering in a multi-season collaboration between LA Opera and Beth Morrison Projects to present cutting-edge contemporary works.
Thumbprint will be presented at REDCAT (located at 631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, 90012) from June 15 through 18.
With its drawn-from-the-headlines subject matter and a dynamic score featuring both Hindustani and European opera influences, Thumbprint depicts the extraordinary true-life transformation of Mukhtar Mai, a young woman whose world is shattered by an act of brutality that could have destroyed her. Instead, she discovers a weapon-her voice-and, to the astonishment of her country and herself, she seeks justice and finds it. Her journey resonates beyond borders in its implicit belief that even in the darkest times, one person can change life for thousands through a single act of courage.
The 2014 world premiere of Thumbprint in New York was acclaimed by New York Classical Journal as "a streamlined and powerful music drama." The Wall Street Journal observed that "Ms. Sankaram's music, inflected with the rhythms and melismas of Indian ragas, has a driving percussive energy and a distinctive sound...the action shifted seamlessly from realistic action to stylized choreography, taking the story into the realm of myth."
The 2016/17 tour of Thumbprint is produced by Beth Morrison Projects.
Thumbprint comes to the stage with an all-female creative team: composer Kamala Sankaram, librettist Susan Yankowitz and stage director Rachel Dickstein.
Kamara Sankaram, who was raised outside San Diego, has received commissions from Beth Morrison Projects, HERE Arts Center, Opera on Tap, and Anthony Braxton's Tri-Centric Orchestra, among others. "As an Indian-American, it is very exciting for me to be able to bring together the different elements of my cultural heritage in the service of telling Mukhtar's story," she says. "Much of the writing for the piece, particularly the vocal ornamentation, is inspired by Pakistani and Indian traditions including Qawwali music, kirtan and tabla bol. In this way, the music is a true fusion of East and West."
The libretto of Thumbprint, written by Susan Yankowitz, originated from a series of interviews with Mukhtar Mai. A poet and playwright, Ms. Yankowitz's best known stage works include Night Sky, which received the 2016 Massachusetts Critics Circle Award for Best Play.
Thumbprint is directed by Rachel Dickstein, the artistic director of Ripe Time, an Obie-winning theater company founded in 2000.
The composer of Thumbprint, Kamala Sankaram, is also a soprano, and she performs the central role of Mukhtar Mai. Mezzo-soprano Phyllis Pancella portrays Mukhtar's mother as well as a minister of justice. Tenor Steve Gokool is seen as Mukhtar's father and as the judge. Soprano Leela Subramaniam is Mukhtar's sister Annu and tenor Kannan Vasudevan portrays Mukhtar's brother Shakur. Tenor Manu Narayan appears as one of Mukhtar's assailants, Faiz, as well as the police chief. The five supporting cast members are additionally seen as journalists, villagers, elders and other roles. Thumbprint is conducted by Samuel McCoy.
There will be four performances of Thumbprint presented by LA Opera at REDCAT (631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, 90012): Thursday, June 15, 2017, at 8pm; Friday, June 16, 2017, at 8pm; Saturday, June 17, 2017, at 8pm; and Sunday, June 18, 2017, at 2pm.
Tickets are on sale now. Tickets cost $69 and can be purchased online at LAOpera.org, by phone at 213.972.8001, or in person at the LA Opera box office at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90012). For disability access, call 213.972.0777 or email LAOpera@LAOpera.org.
Thumbprint is presented under LA Opera's Off Grand banner, which complements the company's mainstage programming through a wide variety of artistic explorations in a range of venues throughout Los Angeles. Off Grand offerings in the 2017/18 season will include presentations at four different venues: REDCAT, the Theatre at Ace Hotel, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and The Broad Stage. To learn more, visit LAOpera.org/OffGrand.
Thumbprint is the fifth new work presented as part of LA Opera's multi-season partnership with Beth Morrison Projects. This collaboration, which supports today's most creative talents working in the fields of opera and music-theater, will continue next season with the West Coast premiere of Keeril Makan's Persona, based on Ingmar Bergman's 1966 film, and the West Coast premiere of Paola Prestina's The Hubble Cantata, co-presented with the Ford Theatres.
To date, BMP has commissioned, developed and produced more than 40 opera and music-theater works that have been presented around the globe. The Los Angeles Times has hailed Ms. Morrison as a "contemporary opera mastermind" and The New York Times has described BMP as "bracingly innovative." Learn more at BethMorrisonProjects.org.
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) is a contemporary arts center for innovative visual, performing and media arts located inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex. REDCAT has its own street entrance at 631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, at the corner of West 2nd and Hope Streets. For more information about REDCAT, please click here.
Thumbprint was commissioned and developed by Beth Morrison Projects and HERE, and premiered at the 2014 PROTOTYPE Festival. Thumbprint began as a song-cycle comissioned by Beth Morrison Projects for the 2009 21c Liederabend.
LA Opera is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the greater Los Angeles community.