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As time permitted during the next three years Feldman edited the footage to produce a film of the opera complete with subtitles and special effects. In a panel discussion following the DVD's première, screened on 4 December 2006 at the 92nd Street Y's Steinhardt Building, Feldman acknowledged that the film was a gift to his wife.
The outcome is a rare opportunity for viewers to experience a production that would otherwise have been witnessed solely by audiences present on 9 and 11 March 2001.
In order to fulfil her intentions precisely, Silver wrote her own libretto based on an 18th century Bengali court tale as told by Ray Bharatchandra (1712-1760) and translated in 1963 by Edward C Dimock.
Note that Bharatchandra -- court poet of the King of Navadwip -- is regarded as the greatest of 18th century medieval Bengali narrative poets. His Annadamangal (1752) reveals a turn of phrase displaying an elegance of language and lyrical quality coupled with a brilliant use of rhetorical devices. With his death in 1760, the medieval period of Bangla literature came to an end.
A scene from 'The Thief of Love'. DVD screenshot © 2006 Hummingbird Films
Silver's The Thief of Love is described as a lyric-comic opera -- the lyric qualities are undeniable, its limited comedy hardly worth mentioning. Nonetheless its storyline as a three act (two scenes apiece) opera is effectively structured. The single set is a palace in Bengal. Vidya, Princess of Knowledge (Gwendolyn Hillman), first appears, aloof and self-possessed as she looks down from her curious ziggurat-like apartment
[watch and listen -- chapter 3, 8:25-10:01].
Here is an educated, high-born princess in search of a partner. The proviso -- she will only yield to the man who can outsmart her in intellectual debate. A number of would-be suitors have tried -- and failed.
Copyright © 30 September 2007
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand