The grandeur of myth, the transformation of a single man into a movement, and music that can change the very way we hear—these are the elements of Satyagraha, Philip Glass’s epic meditation on the legacy of Mohandas K. Gandhi. Known to his followers as Mahatma, or “great soul,” Gandhi was both the father of India’s independence and a political thinker of historic importance. Over the course of the events depicted in Glass’s opera, Gandhi develops his philosophy of satyagraha, a Sanskrit term that loosely translates as “truth force”—the conviction that love, not violence, is the strongest means of fighting oppression. As distant as one could imagine from the works of Bizet, Wagner, or Verdi, Satyagraha is nevertheless pure opera. Philip Glass explains, “I was interested in rebalancing the elements of opera: text, movement, image, and music.”
Three "Musical Highlights" designed to focus on bits of music from Satyagraha to cultivate familiarity with the work.
Performance Activities for students to enjoy during the Metropolitan Opera HD transmission.
A post-transmission activity, integrating the Live in HD experience into students' wider views of the performing arts and humanities.
This Metropolitan Opera production unites Glass, who is considered one of the most important voices in Western music in the 20th and 21st centuries, with Britain’s ingenious Improbable, a theater company led by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch. The result is a theatrical experience unlike any other. With projections, puppetry, extraordinary music, and a set that uses humble materials such as corrugated metal and newsprint, the story of Gandhi’s political awakening unfolds on the Met stage, sung in Sanskrit verses from the central text of the Hindu religion, the Bhagavad Gita.
The activities in this guide introduce students to a marvelous, unconventional theatrical event. The main Classroom Activity focuses on Gandhi and Glass, then provides a structural perspective on the opera’s layering of music, narrative, and sacred text. Other activities offer accessible introductions to technical aspects of Glass’s music, the decision to use sacred text rather than traditional dialogue, and the visual textures of this Live in HD presentation. Satyagraha is an examination of social change in a form that the Wall Street Journal praised for its “hypnotic visual and musical magic.” This guide can help your students find their own personal ways into this enthralling, inspiring work.