Based on the ancient Hindu Legend from The Vana Parva (The Book of the Forest) of the Mahābhārata. A contemporary 40-minute film of the outdoor chamber opera by Gustav Holst.
Director Miriam Khalil | Associate Director Simran Claire
Starring Meher Pavri as Sāvitri | Vartan Gabrielian as Yama, God of Death | Andrew Haji as Satyavān
A legend for our time.
The story of Sāvitri is based on the ancient Indian legend of a powerful female princess who falls in love with Satyavān, an exiled prince, who is prophesied to die young. She marries him with this looming knowledge. Exactly one year into their marriage, she is visited by the God of Death—Yama—who informs her that he has come to claim Satyavān’s life.
Satyavān is suddenly struck down by a deadly illness as Death looms over him, claiming his soul.
Instead of giving into fear and loss, Sāvitri engages Death in a dialogue, inviting him into her world. Death, charmed by her humanity and impressed by her resilience, devotion and sanctity, offers Savitri a consolation…
Death tells her he will grant her a wish, with one important exception: Sāvitri cannot wish for her husband’s return to the realm of the living…
A story about a courageous woman, told by empowered female artists.
Directed by Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil and Associate Directed by Punjabi-Canadian mezzo-soprano Simran Claire.
“Canada’s feisty, out of the box little opera company, has struck gold once again… Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil has made a stunning directorial debut, aided by Punjabi-Canadian associate director, mezzo-soprano Simran Claire. Strong women telling a story about a strong woman, as it were.” — Paula Citron, Ludwig van Toronto
The sound of devotion.
Sāvitri features a chorus of 8 singers and an ensemble of 12 musicians conducted by Simon Rivard. The chorus is comprised of Rebecca Gray (Soprano 1), Juliana Krajcovic (Soprano 1), Madison Angus (Soprano 2), Tiffanie Samuels (Soprano 2), Renee Fajardo (Alto 1), Carly Naimer (Alto 1), Alex Hetherington (Alto 2), and Jennifer Routhier (Alto 2).
The ensemble is comprised of Marie Bérard (Violin 1), Aaron Schwebel (Violin 2), Rémi Pelletier (Viola), Winona Zelenka (Cello), Yolanda Bruno (Violin 1), Amanda Goodburn (Violin 2), Theresa Rudolf (Viola), Leana Rutt (Cello), Tony Flynt (Contrabass), Les Allt (Flute 1), Leslie Newman (Flute 2), and Mark Rogers (English Horn).
Original Hindustani music played and composed by Arnab Chakrabarty (Sarod) and Shahbaz Hussain (Tabla) will be bookending the opera.
SĀVITRI IN CONTEXT: AN OPENING NIGHT EVENT
A Little History
Sāvitri premiered on June 23rd, 2021, one hundred years to the day since this opera’s professional debut on June 23, 1921, at London’s Lyric Theatre.
Renowned English composer Gustav Holst—best known for the epic orchestral suite The Planets— became familiar with the legend of Sāvitri after taking an interest in Sanskrit, and translating several texts into English himself, stories which he then used as the basis for a number of his compositions.
Holst opted to write his own libretto for Sāvitri, interpreting elements that were fundamental to the story and which appealed to his Western sensibilities and European audience – themes of love, fidelity, and perseverance.
Flash forward to Canada today – how to approach a work like Sāvitri, composed by a British colonial who appropriated Indian mythology?
AtG and Sāvitri
On Sāvitri’s opening night, AtG hosted an online pre-show discussion with cast members and directors, hosted by AtG Collective member Amanda Hadi, exploring the creation of this production and mindfully introducing this film to our audience and supporters. Our mission with the AtG version of Sāvitri is to tell the story by embracing its history and origins.
The cast and directors of Sāvitri joined a pre-show conversation hosted by Amanda Hadi about how their stories and diverse heritages connect to this contemporary production.
Creative Thinking, Keeping Hope
For arts companies, this has been a year filled with unprecedented circumstances; of drastic pivots and reinvention. Now is the time for a much-needed recovery for our performing artists and cultural institutions, who have been impacted by so many aspects of the COVID pandemic.
“I’ve been continuously humbled by how our artists and audiences have supported the arts during this challenging time— we’ve seen incredible creativity and resilience from both. At AtG we strive to support our artists and engage our audiences by experimenting with new forms of artistic expression. Thank you so much for your continued and spirited support! ” Joel Ivany, Artistic Director of Against the Grain Theatre
AtG Theatre is proud to offer this contemporary Sāvitri which explores themes of love, devotion, and hope, free of charge.
Directed and associate directed by visionary women, and starring a cast of talented Canadian voices in this brave and experimental take on Holst’s powerful opera.
As a small arts organization, we strive to showcase experimental works and diverse voices—and this means taking risks: creatively and financially. If you are able, please consider a donation to AtG, so that we can bring more outside-the-box operatic experiences to you and continue to provide employment opportunities to artists and artisans nationwide.
Giving Back to Indian Communities
As an organization, AtG recognizes we are producing an opera whose story was taken from Indian culture. With that in mind, we want to encourage our audience members to give back to South Asian communities in a meaningful and restorative way. Each of the following charitable organizations has been chosen by Director Miriam Khalil and Associate Director Simran Claire.
Right now, India is facing a nationwide crisis due to COVID-19. From CanadaHelps: “With an average of 300,000 new daily cases, hospitals are overcrowded, oxygen is running out, critical medical supplies are dwindling, and frontline workers are at risk. Scientists fear that a new and highly contagious COVID-19 variant is only making matters worse. The country’s healthcare system is overwhelmed and in urgent need of oxygen and other medical supplies to keep coronavirus patients alive.”
Education for Girls
“Project Nanhi Kali, which translates to ‘a little bud’ in Hindi, supports the education of underprivileged girls in India. Designed to support girls from low-income families to complete ten years of formal schooling, the project has impacted the lives of over 450,000 girls (called Nanhi Kalis) from underserved communities across the country. The project provides daily academic support as well as an annual school supplies kit, which allow the girls to attend school with dignity.”
Building Schools in North India
“Helping Hands for India is a charitable organization, managed by a dedicated team of volunteers, who are committed to providing educational opportunities and to promote well being to children in India.
We have built a school in the rural village of Pritamgarh, India, where yoga and meditation, play and outdoor education are included in the curriculum. Sansar Gyaan Pathshala, which means ‘World Knowledge Lessons’ is the name of the school. We can now accommodate 300 children at the school.”
Mental Health and Well-Being Supports for the South Asian Community
A note from Simran: I know first-hand how emotionally taxing the past few months have been for the South Asian community. Here in Canada, cities with high immigrant populations have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and on the Subcontinent, COVID-19 has caused utter devastation. Below is a list of mental health resources for those of us who need them. As my mom tells me, aapna thyaan rakho. Take care.
(Adapted from the Toronto District School Board)
University Health Network – Asian Mental Health
Community Family Services Ontario
Muslim Family and Child Services
ICNA RELIEF CANADA
South Asian Canadians Health and Social Services – SACHSS
COVID-19 Helpline for South Asians in the GTA
Mental Health Toronto
Centre For Addiction And Mental Health (CAMH)
South Asian Women’s Centre
South Asian Mental Health Resources (SOCH)