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Arjuna's Dilemma

Arjuna's Dilemma

chamber opera in one act

libretto by the composer after scenes from the Bhagavad Gita and poems by Kabir

translations by Ramananda Prasad


  • Edition: performance material
  • Language: English - Sanskrit

 
description
At the battlefield on the eve of the first conflict of a massive civil war, the noble Prince Arjuna finds himself in a state of almost paralyzing confusion. He must lead his army against an enemy that includes family, friends, and teachers. Unable to justify such violence against his own people, he turns for guidance to his advisor and charioteer Krishna. In the ensuing dialogue, Krishna reveals himself to be an avatar of Vishnu, the most powerful god in the Hindu pantheon. At Arjuna's urging he transforms himself into a vision of the true nature of the universe, in all its splendor and its horror. At first entranced and then horrified, Arjuna begs Krishna to stop the vision and return to his normal form. His horizons newly expanded, Arjuna understands that he must not fear death, nor shirk his duty, which is not only the literal battle in front of him but, more importantly, the fight for self‐knowledge on the battlefield of the mind. Composer Note: Based on the towering Hindu epic, the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna's Dilemma utilizes North Indian performance styles, melodic structures, odd time signatures and rhythmic patterns alongside western instrumentation, harmonies and forms. North Indian vocals co‐mingle with a Western tenor and four‐part choral writing, with references to both modern vocal styles and Byzantine and Gregorian chant. Improvisation is common to both musical worlds, with the Indian singer, tabla player and jazz saxophonist each using their respective improvisatory traditions to reach for the ecstatic, the sublime and the terror that make up the emotional world of this work.

Arjuna's Dilemma In the Press:

"...an opera with an appealing and unabashedly eclectic score... The score boldly blends Indian sources with diverse contemporary music idioms and hints of jazz… Arjuna’s vocal lines, a stylistic blend of Indian chant and Western lyricism, are enriched by a chorus of five women, singing in English. I liked the score best when Mr. Cuomo pushed the complexity to extremes, piling up Arjuna’s solos, choral counterpoint and instrumental textures to create haunting, astringent, multilayered music, with cluster chords in the electric keyboard and spiraling flights in the strings and winds…"
– Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

"[In Arjuna's Dilemma, Cuomo] blends Indian classical singing, jazz improv, the busy minimalist-style patterns that appear to have entered the bloodstream of so many composers and the jewel-like tones of a four-part women's chorus, all worked into a seamless whole, like a golden Indian brocade..."
– Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

"Arjuna's Dilemma has been created by a composer who trusts sound, a few fine voices and a few fine virtuoso instrumentalists, to reveal his message in the same way that the great opera composers trust the sounds will bring to us."
– John Yohalem, Opera Today
Details
Auftragswerk : Commissioned, developed, and produced by Music‐Theatre Group
Content text: I Alap
II Prologue
Gathering Forces
III Dilemma
IV My limbs fail, my mouth becomes dry
V The Answer
VI Interlude: A Clear White Light
VII The Vision
VIII Epilog
Performance duration: 70'0"
Publisher: Schott Helicon Music Corporation
Subtitle: chamber opera in one act
Uraufführung : 22. August 2008 Purchase, NY, PepsiCo Theater (USA) · Dirigent: Alan Johnson · Inszenierung: Robin Guarino · Kostüme: Gabriel Berry · Bühnenbild: Donald Eastman · Veranstalter: Music-Theatre Group (szenische Aufführung)
Year of composition: 2008
instrumentation: 1(pic, afl).0.1(bcl).tsax.0-0.0.0.0-2perc(I: glsp, xyl, crot, tri, finger cym, sus cym, tam-t, s.d, tamb, chimes, metal percussion array, various small metal color instruments, dumbek; II: 2timp, crot, tri, finger cym, sus cym, sus China cym, s.d, tamb, tom-t, b.d, mark tree, clav, wdbl, marac, metal chain in metal mixing bowl, various small metal color instruments).tablas-pno-2vn.va.vc.db
occupation: Indian vocalist - tenor - four female voices
At the battlefield on the eve of the first conflict of a massive civil war, the noble Prince Arjuna finds himself in a state of almost paralyzing confusion. He must lead his army against an enemy that includes family, friends, and teachers. Unable to justify such violence against his own people, he turns for guidance to his advisor and charioteer Krishna. In the ensuing dialogue, Krishna reveals himself to be an avatar of Vishnu, the most powerful god in the Hindu pantheon. At Arjuna's urging he transforms himself into a vision of the true nature of the universe, in all its splendor and its horror. At first entranced and then horrified, Arjuna begs Krishna to stop the vision and return to his normal form. His horizons newly expanded, Arjuna understands that he must not fear death, nor shirk his duty, which is not only the literal battle in front of him but, more importantly, the fight for self‐knowledge on the battlefield of the mind. Composer Note: Based on the towering Hindu epic, the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna's Dilemma utilizes North Indian performance styles, melodic structures, odd time signatures and rhythmic patterns alongside western instrumentation, harmonies and forms. North Indian vocals co‐mingle with a Western tenor and four‐part choral writing, with references to both modern vocal styles and Byzantine and Gregorian chant. Improvisation is common to both musical worlds, with the Indian singer, tabla player and jazz saxophonist each using their respective improvisatory traditions to reach for the ecstatic, the sublime and the terror that make up the emotional world of this work.

Arjuna's Dilemma In the Press:

"...an opera with an appealing and unabashedly eclectic score... The score boldly blends Indian sources with diverse contemporary music idioms and hints of jazz… Arjuna’s vocal lines, a stylistic blend of Indian chant and Western lyricism, are enriched by a chorus of five women, singing in English. I liked the score best when Mr. Cuomo pushed the complexity to extremes, piling up Arjuna’s solos, choral counterpoint and instrumental textures to create haunting, astringent, multilayered music, with cluster chords in the electric keyboard and spiraling flights in the strings and winds…"
– Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

"[In Arjuna's Dilemma, Cuomo] blends Indian classical singing, jazz improv, the busy minimalist-style patterns that appear to have entered the bloodstream of so many composers and the jewel-like tones of a four-part women's chorus, all worked into a seamless whole, like a golden Indian brocade..."
– Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

"Arjuna's Dilemma has been created by a composer who trusts sound, a few fine voices and a few fine virtuoso instrumentalists, to reveal his message in the same way that the great opera composers trust the sounds will bring to us."
– John Yohalem, Opera Today
Auftragswerk : Commissioned, developed, and produced by Music‐Theatre Group
Content text: I Alap
II Prologue
Gathering Forces
III Dilemma
IV My limbs fail, my mouth becomes dry
V The Answer
VI Interlude: A Clear White Light
VII The Vision
VIII Epilog
Performance duration: 70'0"
Publisher: Schott Helicon Music Corporation
Subtitle: chamber opera in one act
Uraufführung : 22. August 2008 Purchase, NY, PepsiCo Theater (USA) · Dirigent: Alan Johnson · Inszenierung: Robin Guarino · Kostüme: Gabriel Berry · Bühnenbild: Donald Eastman · Veranstalter: Music-Theatre Group (szenische Aufführung)
Year of composition: 2008
instrumentation: 1(pic, afl).0.1(bcl).tsax.0-0.0.0.0-2perc(I: glsp, xyl, crot, tri, finger cym, sus cym, tam-t, s.d, tamb, chimes, metal percussion array, various small metal color instruments, dumbek; II: 2timp, crot, tri, finger cym, sus cym, sus China cym, s.d, tamb, tom-t, b.d, mark tree, clav, wdbl, marac, metal chain in metal mixing bowl, various small metal color instruments).tablas-pno-2vn.va.vc.db
occupation: Indian vocalist - tenor - four female voices
Conductor: Nicole Paiement
2017-05-04 | Dallas, TX (United States of America)
Conductor: Jonathan Kuhner
2016-09-11 | Kathmandu (Nepal), Patan Museum/Royal Palace, Bhitri Chowk courtyard
Conductor: Jonathan Kuhner
2016-09-10 | Kathmandu (Nepal), Patan Museum/Royal Palace, Bhitri Chowk courtyard
Conductor: Jonathan Kuhner
2016-09-09 | Kathmandu (Nepal), Patan Museum/Royal Palace, Bhitri Chowk courtyard
Conductor: Jonathan Kuhner
2016-09-08 | Kathmandu (Nepal), Patan Museum/Royal Palace, Bhitri Chowk courtyard
Conductor: Jonathan Kuhner
2016-09-07 | Kathmandu (Nepal), Patan Museum/Royal Palace, Bhitri Chowk courtyard
Conductor: Jonathan Kuhner
2016-09-05 | Kathmandu (Nepal), Patan Museum/Royal Palace, Bhitri Chowk courtyard
Conductor: Jonathan Kuhner
2016-09-04 | Kathmandu (Nepal), Patan Museum/Royal Palace, Bhitri Chowk courtyard
Conductor: Jonathan Kuhner
2016-09-03 | Kathmandu (Nepal), Patan Museum/Royal Palace, Bhitri Chowk courtyard
Conductor: Jonathan Kuhner
2016-09-02 | Kathmandu (Nepal), Patan Museum/Royal Palace, Bhitri Chowk courtyard
2011-04-08 | New York, NY (United States of America), The Kitchen
Conductor: Alan Johnson
2008-11-08 | New York, NY (United States of America), Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harvey Theater — 19.30 h - BAM Next Wave Festival
Conductor: Alan Johnson
2008-11-07 | New York, NY (United States of America), Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harvey Theater — 19.30 h - BAM Next Wave Festival
Conductor: Alan Johnson
2008-11-05 | New York, NY (United States of America), Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harvey Theater — 19.30 h - BAM Next Wave Festival
Conductor: Alan Johnson
2008-08-24 | Purchase, NY (United States of America), PepsiCo Theater — 20.00 h
Conductor: Alan Johnson
2008-08-23 | Purchase, NY (United States of America), PepsiCo Theater — 20.00 h
Conductor: Alan Johnson
2008-08-22 | Purchase, NY (United States of America), PepsiCo Theater — 20.00 h