A Chamber Opera in Sanskrit
The story of Ganga: a saga of heartbreak, promises and love.
Ganga is a powerful, yet helpless, celestial river goddess, whose womb becomes the medium to fulfil the higher purpose of gods and men. Cursed and doomed to be born as mortals, the eight Vasus choose Ganga to be their mother. She promises to release all but one from the curse; the last must live on earth.
Ganga chooses her beloved Shantanu, mighty king of Hastinapur, to be the father. But, to keep her promise to the Vasus, she must also break his heart.
Original Sanskrit text from Mahabharata by Veda Vyasa. Additional Sanskrit text by Dr Baldevanand Sagar and English text by Jataneel Banerjee.
It represents an honourable combination of cultural traditions that should offer a western musical audience access to Indian legends...
The music showed a syncretic absorption of different traditions from Handel to Vaughan Williams with strong South Asian overtones: potentially a fascinating genre ...
Fantastic! Amazing! Epic!
Really nice to see this story told in this way - looking forward to seeing the other parts of it.
Meet the Team
Our creatives and cast
Music - Jataneel Banerjee
Libretto - Ved Vyas
Additional Libretto - Dr Baldevanand Sagar
Director - Tabitha Benton-Evans
Lighting Designer - Matt Prentice
Costume Designer - Sanjay Shetty
Video & Graphic Designer - Subhankar Dutta
Orchestration - Michael Hyman
Music preparation - Colin Rae
Production Assistant - Vera Ugarova
Ganga (Soprano) - Magdalena Maria Herfurtner
Vasu (Countertenor) - Biraj Barkakaty
Sunanda (Mezzo-soprano) - Nafissatou Batu Daramy
Mahabhish (Tenor) - Jonathan Cooke
Shantanu (Tenor) - Robin Bailey
Brahma & Pratip (Baritone) - Theo Perry
Piano - Kausikan Rajeshkumar
Viola - Ursula John
Violin - Alice Barron
Cello - Michael Hyman
K.N. Sundara Raman Sastrigal
Abishek Arunagirisa Sharma Kalyanasundaram
Kishore Ram Rajagopalan
Scene 1 – Mahabhish, a mighty king from the Ikshaku dynasty, pleased the celestial lord through numerous sacrifices and earned his place in heaven. During a worship ceremony for Brahma, Ganga arrived, but her garments were blown away, causing embarrassment. While the celestials looked away, Mahabhish mesmerised by Ganga’s beauty, continued to stare, resulting in a curse from Brahma. As a consequence, Mahabhish would be born on Earth and regain his celestial status later. To fulfill this destiny, he desired to be born as the son of Pratipa. Seeing his distress, Ganga departed, thinking of Mahabhish.
Scene 2 – Ganga, while on her journey, encountered the dejected Vasus who had lost their heavenly abode. Curious, she inquired about their plight and learned that they had been cursed by Vasistha for unknowingly crossing him during his twilight worship. The Vasus requested Ganga to become a woman on Earth and give birth to them as her sons, as they were unwilling to be born from any human mother. Ganga agreed but proposed that one son should survive. The Vasus agreed, and each contributed one-eighth of their energies to conceive a powerful yet childless son. Satisfied with the arrangement, the Vasus returned to their abode, leaving Ganga with her chosen path.
Scene 1 - King Pratipa, known for his benevolence, spent years in asceticism near the Ganga river. The beautiful Ganga appeared before him and sat on his right thigh. Pratipa asked her what does she wish. She expressed her desire to be with him, but Pratipa, faithful to his vows, refused. She insisted, revealing her celestial identity, but Pratipa maintained his integrity. Ganga then accepted his proposal to become his daughter-in-law, praising the virtues of his lineage. She promised to bring happiness to his son and bear him children, ensuring his eventual ascent to heaven through righteousness and good deeds.
Scene 2 - Pratipa, the esteemed ruler of the Kuru dynasty, and his wife Sunanda, engaged in ascetic practices to have a son. Eventually, they were blessed with a son named Shantanu who was Mahabhish in previous life. When Shantanu reached adulthood, Pratipa revealed to him about a celestial damsel who had approached him earlier and instructed Shantanu to accept her as his wife if they were to meet and she requested offspring from him. Pratipa advised Shantanu not to question her identity, lineage, or origins but to comply with his command.
Scene 3 - After King Pratipa coronated his son, Shantanu, on the throne, he retired to a forest. Shantanu, a wise and radiant ruler, developed a passion for hunting and spent much time in the woods. During one of his expeditions along the Ganges, he encountered a stunningly beautiful maiden adorned with celestial ornaments. Enchanted by her allure, Shantanu couldn't quench his desire to behold her. Similarly, the maiden felt a deep affection for him. Expressing his love, Shantanu proposed marriage to her, regardless of her origin. The maiden, bound by a promise, agreed to become his wife, on the condition that he never interfere in her actions or speak harshly to her. Shantanu agreed to her terms.
And the story continues ...