Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Temple Winter Festival: The Tallis Scholars

Hodie Christus natus est. Today, Christ is born! A miracle: and one which has inspired many a composer to produce their own musical ‘miracle’: choral exultation which seems, like Christ himself, to be a gift to mankind, straight from the divine.

A new Hänsel und Gretel at the Royal Opera House

Fairy-tales work on multiple levels, they tell delightful yet moral stories, but they also enable us to examine deeper issues. With its approachably singable melodies, Engelbert Humperdinck's Märchenoper Hänsel und Gretel functions in a similar way; you can take away the simple delight of the score, but Humperdinck's discreetly Wagnerian treatment of his musical material allows for a variety of more complex interpretations.

Rouvali and the Philharmonia in Richard Strauss

It so rarely happens that the final concert you are due to review of any year ends up being one of the finest of all. Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s all Richard Strauss programme with the Philharmonia Orchestra, however, was often quite remarkable - one might quibble that parts of it were somewhat controversial, and that he even lived a little dangerously, but the impact was never less than imaginative and vivid. This was a distinctly young man’s view of Strauss - and all the better for that.

‘The Swingling Sixties’: Stravinsky and Berio

Were there any justice in this fallen world, serial Stravinsky – not to mention Webern – would be played on every street corner, or at least in every concert hall. Come the revolution, perhaps.

The Pity of War: Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano at the Barbican Hall

During the past four years, there have been many musical and artistic centenary commemorations of the terrible human tragedies, inhumanities and utter madness of the First World War, but there can have been few that have evoked the turbulence and trauma of war - both past and present, in the abstract and in the particular - with such terrifying emotional intensity as this recital by Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano at the Barbican Hall.

First revival of Barrie Kosky's Carmen at the ROH

Charles Gounod famously said that if you took the Spanish airs out of Carmen “there remains nothing to Bizet’s credit but the sauce that masks the fish”.

Stanford's The Travelling Companion: a compelling production by New Sussex Opera

The first performance of Charles Villiers Stanford’s ninth and final opera The Travelling Companion was given by an enthusiastic troupe of Liverpudlian amateurs at the David Lewis Theatre - Liverpool’s ‘Old Vic’ - in April 1925, nine years after it was completed, eight after it won a Carnegie Award, and one year after the composer’s death.

Russian romances at Wigmore Hall

The songs of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov lie at the heart of the Romantic Russian art song repertoire, but in this duo recital at Wigmore Hall it was the songs of Nikolay Medtner - three of which were framed by sequences by the great Russian masters - which proved most compelling and intriguing.

Don Giovanni: Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera turned the art of seduction into bloodsport with its 2018/19 season-opener of Mozart’s dramma giocoso, Don Giovanni often walking a razor’s edge between hilarious social commentary and chilling battles for the soul.

Jonathan Miller's La bohème returns to the Coliseum

And still they come. No year goes by without multiple opportunities to see it; few years now go by without my taking at least one of those opportunities. Indeed, I see that I shall now have gone to Jonathan Miller’s staging on three of its five (!) outings since it was first seen at ENO in 2009.

Sir Thomas Allen directs Figaro at the Royal College of Music

The capital’s music conservatoires frequently present not only some of the best opera in London, but also some of the most interesting, and unusual, as the postgraduate students begin to build their careers by venturing across diverse operatic ground.

Old Bones: Iestyn Davies and members of the Aurora Orchestra 'unwrap' Time at Kings Place

In this contribution to Kings Place’s 2018 Time Unwrapped series, ‘co-curators’ composer Nico Muhly and countertenor Iestyn Davies explored the relationship between time past and time present, and between stillness and motion.

Cinderella goes to the panto: WNO in Southampton

Once upon a time, Rossini’s La Cenerentola was the Cinderella among his operatic oeuvre.

It's a Wonderful Life in San Francisco

It was 1946 when George Bailey of Bedford Falls, NY nearly sold himself to the devil for $20,000. It is 2018 in San Francisco where an annual income of ten times that amount raises you slightly above poverty level, and you’ve paid $310 for your orchestra seat to Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

Des Moines: Glory, Glory Hallelujah

A minor miracle occurred as Des Moines Metro Opera converted a large hall on a Reserve Army Base to a wholly successful theatrical venue, and delivered a stunning rendition of Tom Cipullo’s compelling military-themed one act opera, Glory Denied.

In her beginning is her end: Welsh National Opera's La traviata in Southampton

David McVicar’s La traviata for Welsh National Opera - first seen at Scottish Opera in 2008 and adopted by WNO in 2009 - wears its heavy-black mourning garb stylishly.

'So sweet is the pain': Roberta Invernizzi at Wigmore Hall

In this BBC Radio 3 lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall, soprano Roberta Invernizzi presented Italian songs from the first half of seventeenth-century, exploring love and loyalty, loss and lies, and demonstrating consummate declamatory mastery.

Staging Britten's War Requiem

“The best music to listen to in a great Gothic church is the polyphony which was written for it, and was calculated for its resonance: this was my approach in the War Requiem - I calculated it for a big, reverberant acoustic and that is where it sounds best.”

Moshinsky's Simon Boccanegra returns to Covent Garden

Despite the flaming torches of the plebeian plotters which, in the Prologue, etched chiaroscuro omens within the Palladian porticos of Michael Yeargan’s imposing and impressive set, this was a rather slow-burn revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s 1991 production of Simon Boccanegra.

Royal Academy's Semele offers 'endless pleasures'

Self-adoring ‘celebrities’ beware. That smart-phone which feeds your narcissism might just prove your nemesis.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Kamala Sankaram as Mukhtar Mai [Photo by Larry Ho]
25 Jun 2017

Thumbprint, An Amazing Woman Leaves an Indelible Mark

Thumbprint is the story of the young, innocent and illiterate Mukhtar Mai who was assaulted by a group of powerful men. Following the attack, Mukhtar, having supposedly been disgraced, was expected to commit suicide. Instead, she amazed everyone who knew her by going to the police and calling for the arrest of her attackers.

Thumbprint, An Amazing Woman Leaves an Indelible Mark

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Kamala Sankaram as Mukhtar Mai [Photos by Larry Ho]

 

The opera, Thumbprint, originated with a play called Seven, a documentary work first performed in 2008 at New York City’s Ninety-Second Street “Y.” Seven tells the stories of seven women around the world who fought for the rights and wellbeing of women and girls. Susan Yankovich told of Mukhtar Mai, a Pakistani survivor of gang rape, who became a campaigner for women's education and won a 2006 Global Leadership Award.

Beth Morrison of Beth Morrison Projects suggested that Yankovich make her section of the play into an opera libretto for Indian-American composer Kamala Sankaram. Beth Morrison Projects commissioned Thumbprint as a song cycle that was first heard in 2009. As an opera, it received its world premiere in New York in 2014 and its West Coast premiere on Thursday, June 15, 2017. This reporter saw the first Los Angeles performance of Thumbprint as part of Los Angeles Opera’s “Off Grand” series performed at the REDCAT Theater.

thumbprint-0613-06.pngPhyllis Pancella (Mother), Kamala Sankaram (Mukhtar Mai) and Leela Subramaniam (Annu)

Indian-American composer Kamala Sankaram wrote a strong score for this opera. Her music is powered by short rhythmic phrases that drive it forward and undergird it with dramatic force. A singer herself, Sankaram wrote fine ensembles as well as arias and her music utilized the most colorful parts of each artist’s range. With soprano Leela Subramaniam as Annu singing above her and mezzo-soprano Phyllis Pancella as the Mother singing below her, Sankaram’s Mukhtar begins her story as a charming young girl in a loving family. When Mukhtar’s twelve-year-old brother was accused of a sexual offense, she volunteered to apologize for him. Her apology was not accepted and she was physically assaulted. Sankaram’s music, which had been delightfully decorated by the flute, then lost its light hearted charm to become stark and dramatic.

Sankaram's exquisitely colorful score gave Music Director Samuel McCoy six players to accompany the singers: percussionist Brian Shankar Adler, bass player Greg Chudzik, pianist and harmonium player Mila Henry, flutist Margaret Lancaster, violinist Andie Springer, and violist Philippa Thompson. Although they were few in number, they presented Sankaram’s fascinating and repetitive fusion of Western and Indian music with ever increasing intensity.

thumbprint-0613-19.pngKamala Sankaram (front) as Mukhtar Mai, with Phyllis Pancella (Mother)

Director Rachael Dickstein, Scenic Designer Susan Zeeman Rogers, and the video designers of Automatic Release showed Mukhtar’s road to social redemption both on a screen and as a route around the stage. She walked across rectangular platforms that were also used to represent home furniture, a desk in a police station and the dock of a Pakistani Court. Kate Fry’s colorful Pakistani costumes featured long pants under full skirts and headscarves with intriguing designs for the women. The men wore light weight long shirts over slim pants.

Thumbprint is a dramatic piece in which the voices convey a story rather than concentrate on aural beauty. Sankaram, Subramaniam, and Pancella colored their tones so that they told of the events in Mukhtar's life with sound as well as words. Tenor Steve Gokool’s bright, powerful voice was the perfect foil for actor Manu Naroyan’s evil characters, while Kannan Vasudevan’s aptly created smaller characterizations filled out the roster of villagers. Although there were no supertitles and some words were hard to understand, Dickstein made sure that no member of the audience missed Mukhtar’s message.

At the end of the performance there was a Talk-Back at which the opera’s heroine, Mukhtar Mai, was present. Through a translator, she told us that her attackers were free on appeal and would probably never serve time in prison. She has put together a foundation, however, that provides education and support for women in Pakistan. She noted that little by little the tide is turning as village women begin to realize they have the power within themselves to ameliorate their situation.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Composer, Kamala Sankaram; Librettist, Susan Yankowitz; Creative Producer, Beth Morrison; Director, Rachel Dickstein; Music Director, Samuel McCoy; Lighting Design, Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew; Scenic and Object Design, Susan Zeeman Rogers; Costume Design, Kate Fry; Mukhtar, Kamala Sankaram; Mother, Minister of Justice, and other roles, Phyllis Pancella; Father, Judge, and other roles, Steve Gokool; Faiz, Police Chief, and other roles, Manu Narayan; Abdul, Shakur, Imam, other roles, Kannan Vasudevan; Annu and other roles; Leela Subramaniam.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):