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Yet there is a clear shift of style for the Buddhist 'opera within the opera', overt pentatonic harmony projected in luminescent orchestration favouring woodwind, notably bass flute and clarinet, percussion, bells. Here the music attains ravishing beauty, the lyrical lines of both Ananda (a finely focused Gordon Gietz) and Prakriti (enthrallingly projected by Claire Booth) soaring with passion against creamy instrumental lines, as in the scene in which she serves him as a wandering monk, and later in the house of her mother (Rebecca de Pont Davies), where in the knowledge that he is a nobleman, follower of Siddhartha, she sings a ballad to express her love. Perhaps one of the most compelling musico-dramatic moments is where a halo of triadic strings falters before dissolving into a flowing web of complexity when the Buddha (an impressively statuesque, noble-voiced Dale Duesing) asks Prakriti 'why do you suffer?'.
From left to right, Rebecca de Pont Davies (Mother), Claire Booth (Prakriti, restrained by monks) and Richard Angas (Old Brahmin). Photo © 2007 Clärchen and Matthias Baus
This scene, where Prakriti asks to join the brotherhood, thus renouncing her desire, is the most involving: Wagner joins the debate about her rights as a woman, and as the orange-robed monks restrain her from committing suicide, flames rise up around the stage, surrounding her like Brunhilde.
Johan Leysen (Wagner), Dale Duesing (Buddha), Matthew Best (Vairochana), Gordon Gietz (Ananda), Richard Angas (Brahmin) and Claire Booth (Prakriti). Photo © 2007 Clärchen and Matthias Baus
Copyright © 17 July 2007
Malcolm Miller, London UK