Review: Satyagraha, English National Opera

There were no subtitles and the opera was sung in Sanskrit, so there was nothing to do but sit back and absorb the astonishing beauty of the music and the excellent production. When you get older, it is easy to forget the pleasures of childhood when there was much that was incomprehensible but still wonderful like this. It obviously had that effect on many others in the audience as I’ve never seen a standing ovation at a final matinee of an opera before. The last part of act 3 was particularly stunning as the orchestra built up very, very slowly, in the background the figure of Martin Luther King silently addressing a distant crowd. One expected a final chorus but instead there was a long, sustained aria perfectly sung by Alan Oke as Gandhi that almost had me in tears at its beauty. Walking past the South African embassy on the way to the Coliseum and seeing the tributes to Nelson Mandela, it was a timely reminder of how long the struggle against racism in South Africa and elsewhere has been going on. I had that feeling I remember from childhood again: even if I didn’t understand it, it all made sense.

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