Stage Door News
Toronto: Against the Grain presents its film of Gustav Holst’s opera “Sāvitri” starting June 23, 2021
Thursday, June 3, 2021
Arriving with summer, Sāvitri chronicles the face-off between a powerful Indian princess who confronts the God of Death to save her husband. Audiences across Canada and around the world can experience this inspiring story of a woman’s strength, love and devotion, with on-demand-viewing starting June 23.
The multi-award-winning innovative team at Against the Grain Theatre (AtG), following its globally-renowned filmed performance Messiah/Complex, is proud to present Sāvitri, a contemporary film adaption of Gustav Holst’s chamber opera, based on the ancient Hindu legend.
The opera is centred on the courage and ingenuity of a woman fighting for the love of her life, and created by empowered female artists; acclaimed soprano, Associate Artistic Director and AtG co-founder Miriam Khalil makes her professional directorial debut and making her AtG company debut as Associate Director is mezzo-soprano, Simran Claire.
This contemporary 40-minute opera was filmed on a farm in Prince Edward County, Ontario over the May 2021 long weekend and stars an incredible trio of Canadian voices: Indo-Canadian soprano, performer, actress and 2007’s Miss-India Canada Meher Pavri as Sāvitri; rising star Armenian-Canadian bass-baritone Vartan Gabrilian as Yama, God of Death; and tenor Andrew Haji as Satyavān, who made his Carnegie Hall debut in March 2020 just prior the first COVID lockdowns in North America.
“Sāvitri spoke to me because not only is the lead a strong woman, but she saves her husband in this story. I love that there’s an empowered woman at the centre of Sāvitri,” said Director Miriam Khalil.
Punjabi-Canadian performer and Associate Director Simran Claire noted, “Sāvitri speaks to where my family has come from and my identity as a Punjabi performer born in Canada. I’m not compartmentalizing my cultural heritage and my career as an artist – I can approach this project as a whole person.”
Conducting the 12-piece chamber orchestra for Sāvitri is Simon Rivard, Resident Conductor for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra with additional music by sarod maestro, educator and writer Arnab Chakrabarty and leading tabla virtuoso Shahbaz Hussain. The AtG Sāvitri creative team includes Sound Designer Pouya Hamidi, Director of Photography Dylan Toombs, and Costume Designer Ming Wong.
The opera of Sāvitri was created by renowned English composer Gustav Holst—best known for the epic orchestral suite The Planets— who became familiar with the legend of Sāvitri after taking an interest in Sanskrit, and translating a number of texts into English himself; stories which Holst then used as the basis for several of his compositions.
The composer’s intentions were to have this piece performed outdoors, where the orchestra, chamber choir and conductor were hidden from view. Film is an incredible medium to accomplish these cinematic instructions. His chamber opera Sāvitri had its professional premiere on June 23rd, 1921, at London’s Lyric Theatre, 100 years to the day of the upcoming AtG film premiere.
Holst opted to write his own libretto for the story, interpreting elements of the original legend that appealed to his Western sensibilities and audience: themes of love, fidelity, and perseverance.
Flash forward to Canada — and the world — today.
A work like Sāvitri, composed more than a century ago by a British colonial who appropriated this Indian legend, shines a light on how this piece has historically been produced and how we can approach it in new ways and involve more voices in its presentation.
“When I went to watch operas, I didn’t see people who looked like me on stage— especially Indian women. I believe a production like Sāvitri is one of the best ways to make opera accessible to new audiences… and it’s way overdue.” says soprano, Meher Pavri.
On Sāvitri’s opening night, AtG is hosting an online pre-show discussion with cast members and directors, hosted by AtG Collective member Amanda Hadi, exploring the creation of this production and mindfully introducing this film to our audience and supporters.
AtG’s mission with this version of Sāvitri is to tell the story by embracing its history and origins.
When, Where and How to Watch:
AtG’s Sāvitri premieres on June 23, at 7:15pm for a pre-show discussion with the directors and cast, and at 8pm for a live watch party.
Sāvitri and will be available On Demand until July 11th, 2021.
Registration is available at: againstthegraintheatre.ticketleap.com