November 15, 2008

Music Review: Arjuna’s Dilemna, Hari Hari Opera! [Madame Butterfly, Douglas Cuomo; video]

I have just opened up my itunes library to one of the most inspiring pieces of music I have heard in months. The contemporary Hindu-jazz-opera Arjuna’s Dilemna written by Douglas J. Cuomo. The piece is a chamber opera that blends jazz, classical, and traditional Indian music. The words are taken directly from the Bhagavad Gita and the narrative is sung in English by a haunting chorus of female vocalists while Arjuna’s character cries out the melodic Sanskrit exerted directly from the Hindu text. Arjuna’s Dilemna is a truly transcendental work, showing a range of emotion from the utter terror of shrieking violins and rhythmic, demanding choruses, to the beautiful longing for divinity illustrated in its trembling ragas.

However, those looking for a complete enactment of the Gita will be greatly disappointed as this story focuses primarily on Arjuna’s dismay on the battlefield and Krishna’s manifestation of Vishnu, embodied as the devourer of worlds. That said, the opera is concise and shows only what it means to show, the struggle of human consciousness to comprehend the play of infinity. That play could hardly be exhibited more perfectly than by the jazz saxophone, whirling off into near total chaos only to return just before stepping over the brink. The only complaint I have is that I was not in Brooklyn to see this piece open!

Tom Vitale interviews Doug Cuomo.

More news from the Opera world. My wife and I just returned last weekend to the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver’s Performing Arts Center for the opening of their 2008-2009 season which started out with Giacomo Puccini’s tragic work Madame Butterfly. Afterward I was inspired and found this YouTube adaptation of Madame Butterfly that selects one aria to tell the story. Well worth a look and listen:

And, if your like me and can’t get enough of this great music check out Pavarotti performing Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot:

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