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Satyagraha is an opera in three acts for orchestra, chorus and soloists, composed by Philip Glass, with a libretto by Glass and Constance de Jong. The opera is loosely based on the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi, and is the second part of Glass's "Portrait Trilogy" of operas about men who changed the world, which also includes Einstein on the Beach and Akhnaten. Philip Glass's style can broadly be described as minimalist, but the music in Satyagraha is somewhat more expansive than is implied by that label. The cast of the opera includes 2 sopranos, 2 mezzo-sopranos, 2 tenors, a baritone and 2 basses and a large SATB chorus. The orchestra is strings and woodwinds only, no brass or percussion.

The title of the opera refers to Gandhi's concept of non-violent resistance to injustice, Satyagraha, and the text, from the Bhagavad Gita, is sung in the original Sanskrit. In performance, translation is usually provided in supertitles. As the passages are generally repeated, the DVD provides the full text at the beginning of each scene.

Satyagraha was commissioned by the city of Rotterdammarker, The Netherlandsmarker, and was first performed at the Stadsschouwburg (Municipal Theatre) there on September 5, 1980 by the Netherlands Opera and the Utrecht Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Keene. The North American premiere of Satyagraha was at the Artpark in Lewiston, NY on July 29, 1981. Also, in 1981 it was performed by the Stuttgart Operamarker, which went on to perform the complete trilogy in 1990.

The premiere in the UK was by Leeds Youth Opera with the first professional UK production at the Midland Arts Centre, Birmingham in 1999. A major new UK production has recently been prepared by the English National Opera and Improbable as a co-production with the Metropolitan Opera of New York. This production opened in London in April 2007 and was performed in New York in April and May 2008.

The 1981 West Germanmarker production of the opera was filmed in 1983 and released on video.


The opera is in three acts, each referencing a major related cultural figure: Leo Tolstoy, Rabindranath Tagore and Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • I. Tolstoy
    • On the Kuru Field of Justice
    • Tolstoy Farm (1910)
    • The Vow (1906)

  • II. Tagore
    • Confrontation and Rescue (1896)
    • Indian Opinion (1906)
    • Protest (1908)

  • III. King
    • New Castle March (1913)


Noted operatic critic Henry Heidt once said that "This opera is well named as a deeply felt commitment to passive nonviolence on the part of the audience is required to sit through a full performance."


  • S.Woods, D.Perry; Keene, New York City Opera Orchestra and Chorus. 1984 (Sony)

See also


  1. Philip Satyagraha
  2. Satyagraha - Times Online
  3. Satyagraha
  4. Philip Glass: Satyagraha - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes - New York Times

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