10 February 2018

Satyagraha at ENO is a delightful tradittion

ENO have got into the habit of staging Philip Glass' opera Satyagraha every few years and I have gladly fallen into the habit of going to see it every time. This time I made it a real treat and went for Dress Circle A29 for £106.25.

The evening got off to a less than brilliant start as once again Pizza Express failed to live up to the Express part of the name but we were served eventually and the Pizza was nice.

My seat in the Dress Circle was very nice too with an excellent view. The first thing that struck me was how small the orchestra was, they used up about half of the pit. I realised later why that was, the music in Satyagraha was relatively quiet throughout with the noise coming, when there was noise, from the large chorus. A great deal of the time there was not much noise and the mood was very gentle, as you would expect when the subject is Gandhi.

Satyagraha did not tell a story as such, though there were some narrative elements. It consisted of three tableau, each about fifty minutes long, showing scenes from the period that Gandhi lived in South Africa. This was actually quite a long period, from 1893 to 1914, during which he secured significant legal concessions for the local Indian population.

For the best part of three hours, punctuated with a couple of short breaks for ice creams, we had images of newspapers, shoes, cellophane, jackets, beats, houses all of which were presented in almost slow motion to the famous rhythms of Philip Glass and the sumptuous singing of the soloists and chorus.

It was every bit as delightful as it had been when I saw it before and as I hope it will be when I see it next time.

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