Sitar legend Ravi Shankar’s only opera Sukanya, named after his wife, will have its world premiere in the UK in May 2017. The first-of-its-kind stage musical, which combines operatic traditions with Indian classical music, was being composed by Pandit Ravi Shankar at the time of his passing in 2012 and completed with the help of his daughter, sitar maestro Anoushka Shankar.
“It thrills me that this final project of my father’s, about which he was so passionate, is finally coming to life,” she said at a launch event at London’s Royal Opera House on Tuesday.
“My father was, of course, the first Indian classical musician to work with Western classical musicians, the first to write concertos for orchestra, the first to bring the music of India to a global audience. Even in his final years, he was the first to think further, to want to push even more boundaries, and bring Indian classical music to the context of opera,” she added.
The opera explores the common ground between the music, dance and theatrical traditions of India and the West. Conductor and collaborator David Murphy -- who worked with Shankar for many years - completed the opera with help from Anoushka Shankar.
“Ever the practical musician, before undergoing what was to be his final surgery, he outlined the roadmap he had in his mind to take the work to completion - a vision so clear and compelling that it feels as if he is closely supervising the entire creative team as we move towards the world premiere in May 2017,” Murphy said.
The story of ‘Sukanya’ comes from a tale in the ‘Mahabharata’, after whom Shankar’s wife of 23 years was named.
Sukanya Shankar recalled: “My memory is very vivid and fresh of the day when Raviji was asking my mother about the story behind my name, Sukanya, sometime in the mid-Nineties. He was so excited and wanted to do an opera. I didn’t realize he was serious. He was always surprising me and is still doing it.
“He lived and breathed music till the very end and it is a sheer joy to see his last work come to life so beautifully.”
The opera will be conducted by David Murphy and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, supplemented with Indian classical instruments including the sitar, shennai, tabla, mridangam and ghatam.
The first show will open next year on May 12 in Leicester, May 14 in Salford, May 15 in Birmingham and May 19 in London.