Satyagraha (opera)

Satyagraha (/ˈsɑːtjəˈɡrɑːhɑː/; Sanskrit सत्याग्रह, satyāgraha "insistence on truth") is a 1979 opera in three acts for orchestra, chorus and soloists, composed by Philip Glass, with a libretto by Glass and Constance DeJong.

Opera by Philip Glass
The composer in 1993
Based onlife of Mahatma Gandhi
September 5, 1980 (1980-09-05)

Loosely based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, it forms the second part of Glass's "Portrait Trilogy" of operas about men who changed the world, which includes Einstein on the Beach and Akhnaten.

Glass's style can broadly be described as minimalist. The work is scored for 2 sopranos, 2 mezzo-sopranos, 2 tenors, a baritone, 2 basses, a large SATB chorus, and an orchestra of strings and woodwinds only, no brass or percussion. Principal roles are Sonja Schlesin, Mahatma Gandhi, Hermann Kallenbach and Parsi Rustomji.

The title refers to Gandhi's concept of non-violent resistance to injustice, Satyagraha, and the text, from the Bhagavad Gita, is sung in the original Sanskrit. In performance, translation is usually provided in supertitles.

Performance history

Satyagraha was commissioned by the city of Rotterdam, Netherlands, and first performed at the Schouwburg (Municipal Theatre) there on September 5, 1980, by the Netherlands Opera, featuring the choir of the Rotterdam Conservatory and the Utrecht Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bruce Ferden.[1]

The opera premiered in North America at the Artpark in Lewiston, New York, on July 29, 1981. It was also staged that same year by the Stuttgart Opera (which went on to perform the complete trilogy in 1990); this production was taped during its revival in 1983 and released on video.[2]

The UK premiere was a joint production by Bath Spa University and Frome Community College in the theatre of Kingswood School in Bath in 1997.[3]

Performance by San Francisco Opera at the War Memorial Opera House in 1989 [4]

Silviu Purcărete staged a new production of the opera in 2004 at the Theater Bonn, Germany, with a revival in 2013, with Ulrich Windfuhr conducting the Beethoven Orchester Bonn.[5]

A new staging by the English National Opera and Improbable theatre, co-produced by the Metropolitan Opera, opened in London in April 2007[6] and in New York in April 2008.[7] It was revived in London in February 2010[8] and in New York in November 2011; the New York performance on November 19 was part of the Met Opera: Live in HD series. It aired on Great Performances at the Met from PBS in 2012, Season 39 Episode 19 on March 22 with an encore presentation March 25.[9]

On September 16, 2014, a new production was staged at the Ekaterinburg State Academic Opera in Russia. The creative team included Thaddeus Strassberger (direction and scenic design), Mattie Ullrich (costume design) and Oliver von Dohnányi (conductor).

A new production by Folkoperan and Cirkus Cirkör, directed by Tilde Björfors and conducted by Matthew Wood premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theater on October 31, 2018.[10] [11] [12]

On 18 November 2018, Opera Vlaanderen premiered a production by director and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, together with stage designer Henrik Ahr and costume designer Jan-Jan Van Essche [13]


The opera is in three acts, each referencing a major related cultural figure.

Act 1

Leo Tolstoy

  • On the Kuru Field of Justice
  • Tolstoy Farm (1910)
  • The Vow (1906)

Act 2

Rabindranath Tagore

Act 3

Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • The Newcastle March (1913)


See also


  1. Satyagraha,
  2. "Movies: About Philip Glass: Satyagraha". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  3. Johnson, Phil (February 20, 1997). "Review: Opera Satyagraha Kingswood School, Bath". The Independent. London. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  4. "OPERA REVIEW: San Francisco Opera Offers Satyagraha".
  5. Lohmann, Gunild (June 10, 2013). "Philip Glass' Gandhi-Oper Satyagraha wieder auf dem Spielplan". General-Anzeiger (in German). Bonn.
  6. Finch, Hilary (7 April 2007). "Satyagraha". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 May 2010. (subscription required)
  7. "Satyagraha".Archived October 16, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. "Satyagraha". Archived April 7, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  9. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  10. "BAM Satyagraha". New York. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  11. Paget, Clive (October 30, 2018). "Aussie conductor Matthew Wood brings a Swedish Satyagraha to Brooklyn". Limelight Magazine. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  12. Schaefer, John (October 31, 2018). "Opera Takes To The Air In New Satyagraha Production". WNYC. New York. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
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