Sukanya is a unique opera which Pandit Ravi Shankar was working on at the time of his passing in December 2012. The story is inspired by an episode from Book 3, Vana Parva (Book of the Forest) of the Mahabharata, the longest of the Sanskrit epics of ancient India, ten times the length of the Odyssey and the Iliad combined.
Ravi Shankar envisaged Sukanya as a truly groundbreaking piece of musical theatre, which will explore the common ground between the music, dance and theatrical traditions of India and the West. As a young man he had noticed that the Western ear is attuned to harmony, modulation and counterpoint in music: musical textures which of necessity are almost entirely absent in Indian music in order to maintain the melodic purity of the raga. He realised Western-trained ears needed an awareness of the rhythmic and melodic structures underpinning Indian music in order to begin to appreciate its complexity and subtlety. Thus, Ravi Shankar became the first Indian musician to explain these concepts to his audiences and Indian music began to have an influence on most genres of Western music. Yehudi Menuhin the legendary Western violinist became a duo partner and George Harrison was another Western musician for whom the music of India resonated deeply. Other musicians profoundly influenced included the great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and the composer Philip Glass.
After a terrible mistake leaves the ancient sage Chyavana blinded, the beautiful princess Sukanya finds herself marrying for the sake of her kingdom. As a pair of swaggering, meddling gods watch this unlikely union blossom, will love grow in the strangest of circumstances?
Taken from the legendary Sanskrit texts of the Mahābhārata, the story of Sukanya has been brought to life in this innovative production with music by Indian music legend Ravi Shankar and combines traditional Indian instruments with Western orchestra and singers. This performance is directed by Curve Associate Director Suba Das and unites dance choreographed by the Aakash Odedra Company, production by The Royal Opera and the musicians of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
These performances are a co-production between The Royal Opera, London Philharmonic Orchestra and Curve, Leicester in association with Southbank Centre, with generous philanthropic support from Arts Council England and the Bagri Foundation.