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Work of the Week – Thierry Pécou: Until the Lions

On 21 March, the world premiere of Thierry Pécou’s most recent opera Until the Lions would have been given in Strasbourg at the Opéra National du Rhin. Even though the rehearsals have now been stopped and the premiere been postponed until one of the following seasons due to the COVID-19 crisis, we would nevertheless like to introduce the piece: Marie Jacquot conducts the Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse in a production directed and choreographed by Shobana Jeyasingh.

Until the Lions was adapted from the eponymous novel by Karthika Naïr. The title comes from a well-known African proverb: Until the lions can write their own story, only the hunters will become famous. Exploring themes of the great Hindu Mahabharata epic poem, the Indian writer gives voice in her book to women who suffer the male abuses of power and war.

Thierry Pécou – Until the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata

This opera is focussed on the story of Princess Amba who, having been humiliated by the invincible Bhishma, was reborn as a male warrior with the help of Shiva in order to seek revenge. The opera shows the insanity of war leading to utter destruction. Pécou’s work makes some references to music from India and Indonesian gamelan.

Even though the Mahabharata is a fundamental Hindu text, its beauty and profound understanding of human beings are universal and would not necessarily need to be contextualized in India. But as I am myself a globetrotter and because I had some thrilling experiences with North Indian musicians, I felt that I wanted to bring some Indian elements and elements of Indonesian gamelan into the music. – Thierry Pécou

Until the Lions runs at Opéra National du Rhin until 7 April. On 17 April, Pécou’s own Ensemble Variances will perform his chamber opera Nahasdzáán in the Glittering World in Grenoble, France.