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Ravi Shankar’s only opera ‘Sukanya’ to tour UK in world premiere production

Ravi Shankar’s only opera ‘Sukanya’ to tour UK in world premiere production by The Royal Opera, London Philharmonic Orchestra and Curve

Friday 12 May 2017 (world premiere) – Curve, Leicester

Sunday 14 May 2017 – The Lowry, Salford

Monday 15 May 2017 – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Friday 19 May 2017 – Royal Festival Hall (in association with Southbank Centre, London)

Picture: Ravi Shankar and Sukanya Shankar

Images from the launch at Royal Opera House (Monday 20 September) available here:  Please credit SIM CANETTY-CLARKE

Stock images available here:


The Royal Opera, London Philharmonic Orchestra and Curve present the world premiere of Ravi Shankar’s only opera Sukanya which tours venues across the UK in May 2017. With a libretto by Amit Chaudhuri, the semi-staged opera is directed by Suba Das and conducted by David Murphy, with soprano Susanna Hurrell in the title role, bass-baritone Keel Watson, Brazilian baritone Michel de Souza, the BBC Singers and the full force of a 60-strong London Philharmonic Orchestra. The Orchestra is supplemented with Indian classical instruments including the sitar, shennai, tabla, mridangam and ghatam. The innovative Aakash Odedra Company provide the choreography and dancers and Tony Award-winning 59 Productions are providing production design.


Shankar was composing his pioneering opera Sukanya at the time of his passing, an opera exploring the common ground between the music, dance and theatrical traditions of India and the West.  Conductor and collaborator David Murphy – who worked with Shankar for many years, notably conducting the world premiere of his Symphony with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 2010 – completed the opera with help from Anoushka Shankar, Ravi Shankar’s daughter.


David Murphy says:

“Bringing Ravi Shankar’s only opera to life has been an amazing journey. A journey that was begun over a decade ago during the thousands of hours Raviji and I spent working closely together and which gained an unstoppable momentum in the last months of his life, continuing even during his time in hospital. Ever the practical musician, before undergoing what was to be his final surgery, he outlined the roadmap he had in his mind to take the work to completion – a vision so clear and compelling that it feels as if he is closely supervising the entire creative team as we move towards the world premiere in May 2017.”


Anoushka Shankar says:

“It thrills me that this final project of my father’s, about which he was so passionate, is finally coming to life. My father was, of course, the first Indian classical musician to work with Western classical musicians, the first to write concertos for orchestra, the first to bring the music of India to a global audience. Even in his final years, he was the first to think further, to want to push even more boundaries, and bring Indian classical music to the context of opera. David Murphy has been so dedicated and sincere bringing my father’s vision to completion. I’m very grateful to everyone involved.”


Ravi Shankar was in a unique position to visualise the common ground between East and West. From Yehudi Menuhin, the legendary Western violinist, to George Harrison of the Beatles, his influence across the arts is legendary. From a young age, he was steeped in the ancient musical and dramatic traditions of India through his guru Baba Allauddin Khan but also gained a deep knowledge of the music and drama of the west. As a young man he experienced the reaction of Westerners to hearing Indian music for the first time: although many found it exciting he realised that it needed to be presented very carefully for the untrained Western ear to realise its depths.


His friendship with Yehudi Menuhin inspired Shankar to begin looking at the connections between Eastern and Western classical music. Alongside Shankar’s forays into chamber music – culminating in the album West Meets East in 1967 – his first major western classical commission came in 1970 from the London Symphony Orchestra. He began working on his Concerto, which was premiered in 1970 and conducted by André Previn. The Guardian critic Edward Greenfield commented that “If East has to meet West, then few musicians have achieved it with such open joy than Ravi Shankar.” Shankar continued to work with western classical music and in 2010 the London Philharmonic Orchestra gave the world premiere of his ambitious Symphony, conducted by David Murphy.


Amit Chaudhuri’s libretto, based on the legendary Sanskrit texts of the Mahābhārata, also draws on texts as diverse as Tagore, Eliot and Shakespeare. The story follows the young princess Sukanya who must marry the much older Chyavana, a wise religious man, after a terrible accident. As love unexpectedly grows between the couple, twin demi-gods attempt to woo the beautiful Sukanya, leading to an ultimate test as Chyavana is transformed into a third twin. Faced with a choice of three now identical, handsome young men, will Sukanya be able to identify her husband’s soul?

Shankar was inspired to choose this subject while exploring the story behind the name of his wife, Sukanya Shankar, who says:

“My memory is very vivid and fresh of the day when Raviji was asking my mother about the story behind my name, Sukanya, sometime in the mid-nineties. He was so excited and wanted to do an opera. With his busy schedule of touring, performing and teaching, it was shelved. In the last few years before he left his physical abode, he started to work on it with David Murphy who he was very fond of and loved working with. He was confident that if for some reason he was not able to complete the opera, Anoushka would complete it for him. Luckily, he worked even in hospital before his final surgery with David by his side and completed it. David has done a brilliant job of arranging and bringing to life this Magnum Opus work of Raviji. I am grateful to David and to Anoushka for their inputs.

My husband, an enigmatic genius, was a cluster of energy, creativity, love and inspiration who never ceased to surprise me in all our time together and has done it again! This opera is a standing testimony to the ultimate in the amalgamation of East Meeting West as natural as can be.” 

The world premiere of Sukanya is made possible through generous philanthropic support from Arts Council England and the Bagri Foundation. The work also received seed funding from Norwich Arts Centre and a Kickstarter campaign.

Sukanya is a co-production between The Royal Opera, London Philharmonic Orchestra and Curve and 19 May performance is presented in association with Southbank Centre.

John Fulljames, Associate Director of Opera, The Royal Opera:

Opera is the perfect art-form for Ravi Shankar whose vision embraced text, image and dance as well as music. His work on this new opera with Amit Chaudhuri and David Murphy has deep roots in the literature and the classical musics of both Europe and India.  I’m very much looking forward to hearing and seeing a hugely entertaining show which also carries an important message about the nature of love and the transformative power of music.”

Timothy Walker, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of London Philharmonic Orchestra:

“In 2010 we had the pleasure of working with Ravi Shankar on the world premiere of his first Symphony, a dynamic work that delighted our regular audience and enticed more people to experience the magic of a live symphony orchestra. We are thrilled to be co-producing the world premiere and tour of Shankar’s only opera Sukanya, a work that develops his vision of East meeting West, again working alongside David Murphy and some of the country’s leading arts organisations in this landmark event.”

Curve Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster:

“We’re thrilled to be developing Curve’s repertoire with not only our first opera, but also our first collaboration with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and The Royal Opera. Sukanya was first developed at Curve over two years ago, so it’s wonderful we are now able to bring Ravi Shankar’s only opera to life, presenting its world premiere as part of our programme to mark 70 years of Indian Independence.”

Suba Das, Director of Sukanya and Associate Director of Curve:


“Ravi Shankar brought Indian music into the modern Western world, asserting that South Asian culture isn’t in any way niche but truly world class in its own right. Working now with two generations of South Asian artists who have followed in those trailblazing footsteps, making work that powerfully brings together many cultures and perspectives, is an unparalleled honour. This first ever presentation of Sukanya to the world is about the music first and foremost, but with Amit Chaudhuri’s richly poetic text, that draws equally from Shakespeare and Tagore; Aakash Odedra’s stunning and sometimes menacing choreography that fuses Kathak and contemporary Western influences; and projection design filled with unexpected, fresh perspectives on India by Akhila Krishnan for 59 Productions; we’re also going to create a magical stage event. We want to celebrate the restless, ever-evolving shape of Indian and British Asian creativity, and it feels appropriate to do so for this love story full of mystical transformations and hidden identities. We hope that Ravi Shankar himself would be proud of the land beyond borders we’ll create onstage.”



For more information and for tickets please visit:




About London Philharmonic Orchestra

Recognised today as one of the finest orchestras on the international stage, the London Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1932 by Sir Thomas Beecham. Since then, its Principal Conductors have included Sir Adrian Boult, Bernard Haitink, Sir Georg Solti, Klaus Tennstedt and Kurt Masur. In 2007 Vladimir Jurowski became the Orchestra’s Principal Conductor.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra has been performing at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall since it opened in 1951, becoming Resident Orchestra in 1992. It also has flourishing residencies in Brighton and Eastbourne, and performs regularly around the UK. Each summer it plays for Glyndebourne Festival Opera, where it has been Resident Symphony Orchestra for over 50 years. The Orchestra also regularly tours abroad: highlights of the 2014/15 season include appearances across Europe (including Iceland) and tours to the USA (West and East Coasts), Canada and China.

In summer 2012 the London Philharmonic Orchestra performed as part of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames, and was also chosen to record all the world’s national anthems for the London 2012 Olympics.

The Orchestra broadcasts regularly on television and radio, and has recorded soundtracks for numerous blockbuster films including The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has made many distinguished recordings over the last eight decades and in 2005 began releasing live, studio and archive recordings on its own CD label.


About The Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House is home to The Royal Ballet, The Royal Opera and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.  In addition to more than 400 performances given each year, 12 productions are screened across the UK and beyond to more than 35 countries as part of ROH Live Cinema. The Royal Opera House also collaborates with many different arts and cultural organizations on projects such as Sukanya, A Man of Good Hope, a Young Vic and Isango Ensemble production co-produced by The Royal Opera and Repons Foundation, The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party by ZooNation at the Roundhouse and The Royal Ballet at the Barbican for Javier De Frutos’s Les Enfants Terribles. In 2015/16 more than 43,000 took part in creative learning and participation projects or attended a subsidized performance for families, schools or students, and more than 18,000 young people from North Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire experienced cultural activities through ROH Bridge.

The Royal Opera House has a central role to play in cultivating a healthy future for opera, ballet and, more broadly, the UK’s cultural ecology, and is committed to uncovering and nurturing talent across every aspect of its artistic and learning programmes. It works with more than 44 UK arts organizations ranging from East London Dance to Birmingham Royal Ballet, the London Sinfonietta to the V&A, Gandini Juggling to Opera North, as well as more than 30 international companies and theatres, its partners in Thurrock and numerous schools and colleges.


About Curve

Curve is a major producing theatre, creating exceptional and compelling experiences. We use our unique home and talent to entertain, inspire and engage with a diverse audience and play a leading role in the development of our industry, our city and our global community. At the heart of this is the ambition to offer our local audiences world-class theatrical experiences.

Curve is a registered charity, number 230708, enabling people of all ages and backgrounds to access, participate in and learn from the arts, nurturing new and emerging talent, and creating outstanding, award-winning theatrical experiences.

Under the leadership of Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster, Curve is developing a reputation for producing, programming and touring a bold and diverse programme of musicals, plays, new work and dance. All of this presented alongside a dynamic mix of community engagement and learning opportunities, which firmly places audiences and communities at the heart of what Curve does. Recent productions and co-productions Made At Curve include: our Community Company production of Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone, Spring Awakening (with NYMT), Sister Act (& Monaco & UK tour), Legally Blonde (& Daegu Opera Festival, South Korea – Winner Best Musical – Daegu International Musical Festival Awards), Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (& Haymarket Theatre, London & UK tour), Ishy Din’s Wipers (in collaboration with Belgrade Theatre Coventry & Watford Palace), Roald Dahl’s The Witches (& Lyric Theatre, Hong Kong & UK tour), Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Hairspray (& UK tour), Shakespeare’s Richard III, Akram Khan’s Until the Lions (with Roundhouse, London), Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical, and Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing (& UK national tour).


About David Murphy

Passionately interested in Indian music since childhood, David’s work with the leading musicians of India has confirmed his belief that music provides an ideal meeting ground for a true multi-cultural dialogue. David was introduced to the music and philosophy of India whilst studying at the Purcell school where he came under the influence of the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who had worked closely with Ravi Shankar in the 1960s.

David has worked extensively with Ravi Shankar and other leading musicians of India including violinist Kala Ramnath, sarod virtuoso Amjad Ali Khan and composer Aadesh Shrivastava. The collaboration with Amjad Ali Khan included a recording and tour of India with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and with Ravi Shankar led to the premiere and recording of Shankar’s Symphony with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Anoushka Shankar. A student of Leon Barzin and protégé of Sir Charles Mackerras, David is also a noted interpreter of Beethoven and Mozart, his approach to these composers enhanced by his Indian music experience.


About Suba Das

Originally from Newcastle, after reading English at Cambridge Suba trained on the prestigious Arts Council/ Birkbeck MFA in Theatre Directing through which he spent a year as Resident Assistant Director at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Here his ground-breaking, site-specific production of his own translation of Medea (with choreography by Kenrick Sandy of the Olivier Award-winning street dance company Boy Blue Entertainment) led to his role as director-in-residence at the National Theatre Studio and English Touring Theatre.

In 2010, Suba co-founded the BAME theatre and training company Custom/Practice, supported by Arts Council England, the Royal Shakespeare Company and English Touring Theatre. The company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was commissioned for the 2012 Almeida Festival and subsequently toured nationally.

In 2011, Suba won the prestigious TS Eliot/Old Vic New Voices US/UK Theatre Award, becoming one of seven directors sent to New York to create a new production for the Vineyard Theatre as a showcase of the best of young British talent. He also began the creation of a trilogy of critically-acclaimed, sell-out site-specific classical productions in hidden spaces across London: Othello, The Winter’s Tale (in partnership with the Old Vic Tunnels) and The Revenger’s Tragedy (with Hoxton Hall).

In April 2012, Suba was appointed Associate Director at Curve where his role focusses on supporting new and diverse talent across the region. Suba created and curates the annual Inside Out Festival, a showcase of East Midlands’ talent which has been supported by the National Theatre and BBC Writersroom. Directing at Curve includes Serious Money by Caryl Churchill, Mother Clap’s Molly House by Mark Ravenhill, the UK premiere of two award-winning Indian plays developed by the Royal Court (Ok Tata Bye Bye by Purva Naresh and Pereira’s Bakery at 76 Chapel Road by Ayeesha Menon), Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party, which was the first production to be staged in the round in Curve’s Studio, and the European premiere production of Shiv by James Tait Black prize nominee Aditi Brennan Kapil.

Suba continues to develop his own work, winning the 2013 IdeasTap Underbelly Award for the world premiere of Hope Light And Nowhere by Bruntwood Prize winner Andrew Sheridan. In 2016, Suba will direct POP, a new circus production premiering at the Roundhouse CircusFest in collaboration with the National Centre for Circus Arts, designed by Kylie Minogue’s Creative Director William Baker. He is a Critical Friend for the Royal Opera House, a 2016 Sky Arts Academy Award Judge and regular teacher at The Actors Centre.


About Aakash Odedra Company

Aakash Odedra Company tells stories through movement. Inspired by South Asian classical dance, contemporary dance and collaborative partnerships, the work always seeks to enliven audiences and find new ways to engage with people. Aakash Odedra is one of the most sought after dancers in the UK. With a growing international reputation for making and commissioning beautifully crafted dance works, the company is also excited to spread the joy of dance to communities where it tours and at home.


About BBC Singers

Founded in 1924, the BBC Singers are the oldest of the six BBC Performing Groups and hold a unique position in British musical life. Performing everything from Byrd to Birtwistle and Tallis to Takemitsu, their versatility is second to none. The only full-time professional chamber choir in the UK, the choir’s unrivalled expertise in performing the best of contemporary music has brought about creative relationships with some of the most important composers and conductors of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Poulenc, Britten, Judith Bingham, Peter Maxwell Davies and Associate Composer Judith Weir. The BBC Singers give a series of concerts each year in Milton Court Concert Hall and a series of short, early-evening concerts in St Giles’ Cripplegate, both venues close to the Barbican, as well as regular free concerts in St Paul’s Church in Knightsbridge. They appear at major festivals across the UK and beyond, performing frequently with Chief Conductor David Hill, and are committed to sharing their enthusiasm and creative expertise through its nationwide Learning programme. This includes frequent collaborations with schoolchildren, youth choirs and the amateur choral community, as well as with the professional composers, singers and conductors of tomorrow, often in their home at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios.


About 59 Productions

59 Productions is the multi award-winning company of artists behind the video design of the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games, the Tony Award-winning An American in Paris, globe-trotting smash hit, War Horse, and the design of record-breaking David Bowie is exhibition. 59 Productions combine technology and art to tell amazing stories. Led by Directors Leo Warner, Mark Grimmer, Lysander Ashton and Richard Slaney, they are world leaders specialising in design for stage and live events. Since 2006, 59 Productions has been involved in more than 150 productions across the world at venues including the National Theatre, Royal Court, Young Vic, The Royal Opera House, English National Opera, New York’s Metropolitan Opera as well as at theatre festivals in Edinburgh, where they are Associate Artists to the International Festival until 2018, Salzburg, Berlin and Avignon.


About Anoushka Shankar

Her new album Land of Gold on Deutsche Grammophon tours Europe in October and November

Land of Gold European tour includes:

Royal Festival Hall, London: Thursday 13 October at 19:30

Symphony Hall, Birmingham: Thursday 10 November at 20:00


Images from the launch at Royal Opera House (Monday 20 September) available here:



For more information please contact George Chambers at Albion Media:


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