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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Satyagraha in Concert at Hamer Hall - 130 minutes, plus a 20-minute interval

Updated: May 21, 2023

Mahatma Gandhi’s peace-loving endeavours are front and centre in Philip Glass’ majestic Satyagraha in Concert.

The opera is set during Gandhi’s time in South Africa and explores the development of non-violent protest as a means to a political end.

Each of the three acts (one in the first half and two in the second) are presided over by an icon of peaceful dissent.

I speak of Russian author Leo Tolstoy, Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore and American human rights’ activist Martin Luther King Jr.

Nine soloists soar with the Opera Australia Chorus and Orchestra Victoria, under the baton of energetic Tahu Matheson.

Many caught my eye. None more so that Shanul Sharma as Gandhi.

Given his long, lyrical solo that got the performance off to a special, ear-pleasing start, it is almost impossible to imagine him as a heavy metal vocalist.

But, believe it or not, that is how the accomplished tenor’s musical career began.

Also greatly elevating the spectacle was Rachelle Durkin, the outstanding soprano, who played Gandhi’s secretary.

She reprised the role that won her rave reviews at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and it was not hard to see and hear why.

Another standout, among a stellar cast, was Opera Australia senior principal artist, baritone Andrew Moran, who played an architect and friend of Gandhi.

His facial expression belied how heavily invested he was in the performance.

I also greatly commend bass Richard Anderson, who was in fine voice as philanthropist Parsi Rustomji and supreme god Lord Krishna.

Another baritone, Alexander Sefton, attracted my attention for all the right reasons as Prince Arjuna.

I was deeply moved by this concert production of Satyagraha and the melodic, chant-like vocals of Shanul Sharma.

Near the start, when he was joined by two other male voices, the harmony was intoxicating.

Further, the production took on ethereal qualities as the choir burst into song and the orchestra surged.

Directed by Andy Morton, Satyagraha in Concert was a compelling and most satisfying work, with masterful production values and choreography.

I only hope it returns sooner rather than later.


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