Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Presents World Premiere of Jack Perla and Rajiv Joseph’s SHALIMAR THE CLOWN Starring Sean Panikkar and Andriana Chuchman, June 11 -25

OTSL2-272x300Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is presenting the highly anticipated world premiere of Jack Perla and Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph’s Shalimar the Clown, adapted from the much-admired novel by Salman Rushdie, as part of the repertory of OTSL’s New Works, Bold Voices series. The third opera in OTSL’s New Works, Bold Voices series, Shalimar the Clown opens Saturday, June 11, 2016 at Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road (At Big Bend) St. Louis, MO 63119.

The performance schedule is Saturday, June 11  at 8:00 pm,  Wednesday, June 15 at 8:00 pm, Friday, June 17  at 8:00 pm, Sunday, June 19 at 7:00 pm, Thursday, June 23 at  8:00 pm and Saturday, June 25 at 1:00 pm. For more information visit Opera-Stl or phone (314) 961-0644. OTSL is located at 210 Hazel Ave., St. Louis, MO.

Shalimar the Clown tells the story of Shalimar and his beloved Boonyi, who have grown up together in a pastoral Kashmiri village, making people laugh as acrobats and dancers in a traditional folk theater. Though one is Muslim and one is Hindu, they fall in love – and despite all odds, their village embraces their marriage. But when a new American ambassador sees Boonyi dance, dark clouds gather. The promise of a new life tears their love apart and sends Shalimar down a path of revenge. Steeped in the rich operatic traditions of Rigoletto and Pagliacci, Mr. Perla’s score resonates with the musical traditions of Kashmir, featuring Arjun Verm on sitar and Javad Butah on tabla drums as the heartbeat that underscores this poetic and powerful story. Jayce Ogren conducts and OTSL Artistic Director James Robinson (2015’s Emmeline, 2014’s “27,” 2013’s Champion) directs.

ShalimarTenor Sean Panikkar (2014’s The Magic Flute) returns in the title role, with soprano Andriana Chuchman starring as lovers Shalimar Noman and Boonyi Kaul. The cast includes Greg Dahl (Max Ophuls), Katharine Goeldner (Peggy Ophuls), Aubrey Alicock (Bulbul Fakh), Jenni Bank (Firdaus Noman), Thomas Hammons (Abdullah Sher Noman), Geoffrey Apgalo (Gopinath Razdan), Elliott Paige (Bombur Yambarzal), Justin Austin (Pyarelal Kaul), Eric Ferring (Zahir), Benjamin Taylor (Cowardly Giant), Samuel Weiser (Clumsy God) and Gina Perregrino (Mystic Blind Woman).

Director James Robinson, conductor Roberto Kalb, composer Jack Perla, and librettist Rajiv Joseph following the Opera Fusion workshop performance of 'Shalimar the Clown' in Cincinnati on October 17, 2015. Photo (c) Philip Groshong.

Director James Robinson, conductor Roberto Kalb, composer Jack Perla, and librettist Rajiv Joseph following the Opera Fusion workshop performance of ‘Shalimar the Clown’ in Cincinnati on October 17, 2015. Photo (c) Philip Groshong.

The production and design team includes Allen Moyer (sets), James Schuette (costumes), Christopher Akerlind (lighting), Tom Watson (wigs and makeup), choreography (Sean Curran) and Greg Emetaz (projections).

Mr. Rushdie’s novel was a finalist for the 2005 Whitbread Book Awards, and has been described as “Rushdie’s greatest novel since The Satanic Verses” by The Los Angeles Times.  The novel’s magic-realist world incorporates Mr. Rushdie’s signature humor, balanced by a thrilling, sinister ending, which offers a glint of hope in the form of an unanswered question.

Rajiv Joseph. Photo by Lia Chang

Rajiv Joseph. Photo by Lia Chang

Rajiv Joseph‘s play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize® and received a Drama Desk award nomination for Outstanding Play.  His other plays include Guards at the Taj, The North Pool, Gruesome Playground Injuries, Animals Out of Paper and The Lake Effect. His plays have been translated and produced world-wide. Guards at the Taj was awarded the 2015 Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award, given annually for an unproduced, full-length play of social relevance by an emerging American playwright; a 2016 Obie Award for best new American play; four 2016 Lucille Lortel Awards including Outstanding Play, Outstanding Scenic Design, Outstanding Lighting Design and Outstanding Sound Design. Joseph is the librettist and co-lyricist for the musical, Fly. Joseph also wrote for the Showtime series “Nurse Jackie” for its third and fourth seasons and was the co- screenwriter of the film Draft Day, starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner. Joseph received his B.A. in Creative Writing from Miami University and his M.F.A. in Playwriting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He served for three years in the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa. Joseph was named a 2010 Rockefeller Fellow by United States Artists. He is the recipient of the Lucille Lortel Award, the Whiting Award, the Glickman Award, the 2013 Equity Jeff Award for The Lake Effect, produced by Silk Road Rising in Chicago and the prestigious 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award from the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

About Jack Perla
San Francisco-based composer Jack Perla has forged a reputation for writing engaging, sophisticated, and accessible works using a palette that includes symphonic, operatic, choral, and chamber music, as well as multiple jazz idioms.  In 2010, Mr. Perla was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera for a one-act opera with playwright Eugenie Chan, for Song of HoustonCourtside was the first in that series and led to a second commission for the final opera of the series, with author Chitra Banerjee Divarakuni.  Love/Hate, commissioned by American Opera Projects, premiered in 2012 in a co-production with the Opera Center of San Francisco Opera and ODC Theater.  Other commissions include Belongings, a new one act opera for the Seattle Opera with Atlantic writer Jessica Murphy Moo, and Pretty Boy, commissioned by the Paul Dresher Ensemble.  Mr. Perla has received awards from the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, American Composers Forum, Zellerbach Fund, Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund, James Irvine Foundation, American Music Center, Meet the Composer and Civic Orchestra of Chicago.  He is the 1997 recipient of the Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Composers Award, and earned his DMA at the Yale School of Music.

All main season productions at Opera Theatre are accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony and are performed in English, with projected supertitles. Concerts and special events, such as Center Stage, feature music sung in its original language. Performances are presented at the  Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road (At Big Bend) St. Louis, MO 63119.
Map/Directions

The world premiere of Shalimar the Clown is made possible with a leadership gift from the Whitaker Foundation, an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and generous support from OPERA America’s Opera Fund.

About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony. As of its 2015 40th anniversary season, Opera Theatre will have presented 24 world premieres and 24 American premieres (including the 2015 production of Handel’s Richard the Lionheart) – which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company. Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries. Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.

Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation. Among the artists who had important early opportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee. Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by general director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as artistic director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as music director. Timothy O’Leary was named general director in October 2008 with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding the late Colin Graham.

Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts & Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.

Click here for more articles on Rajiv Joseph.

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

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