Thousands of miles away from Chambal, where she operated, late dacoit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi’s life has been converted into a chamber opera by composer Shirish Korde and director Lynn Kremer.
The Boston Musical
Viva, a six-piece symphony ensemble at the College of the Holy Cross have put together the opera, Phoolan Devi: The Bandit Queen, under the direction of Richard Pittman with a cast of six singers and over 20 dancers.
Only two Indian instrumentalists were asked to accompany the all-American ensemble, which was held last month - sitarist Chirag Katti and tabla-player Aditya Kalyanpur.
For 23-year-old Katti, who already has four albums to his credit and has been awarded the prestigious Surmani award, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It was unbelievable playing with a symphony orchestra,” says Katti. “While the orchestra played out everything from written notes, I would improvise on classical raags, to go with the situation being depicted.
“The only live Indian element in the orchestra was my sitar and Aditya’s tabla,” he continues. “So we would play different raags that would make for an appropriate background score for the Soprano’s songs.”
The opera also used folk songs, and incorporated performances by Kathak and Bharatnatyam dancers. But apart from three cast members, the cast was mostly entirely American.
Katti got the chance to be a part of the concert after he was approached last year, during his solo US tour. He says that it was different from “anything I’ve ever seen or played before.”
The sitar maestro, who also performs with a fusion band, Strings Rhapsody, reveals that he is planning another tour in the USA.