L'Orient: Setting the Scene

In Délibes’ original opera, Lakmé sacrifices herself for her lover, a British officer, and her father, a Brahmin priest. She is literally a victim of both colonialism and the patriarchy. 

 

But how much has really changed in 2022, as the five finalists vie to re-contextualize the role, each performer competing with ever-more ferocity to sell themselves to the judges and the producer—the mysterious Durga Tyger, a force of nature, who will stop at nothing to beat her rival networks in the ratings.

 

This provocative work combines choreography based on the principles of classical dance—ballet and South Indian bharatanatyam—alongside contemporary street and Hip Hop moves. The choreography is brought to life through a radical soundworld, bringing together elements of Carnatic (South Indian classical) music, traditional grand opera (including themes from Délibes’ score), and the compulsive rhythms of electronic dance music. 

 

In the dog-eat-dog chaos of a reality show, the drama plays out in a TV studio in front of a live audience. Ms. Tyger is selling the project as a way to uncover the ultimate superwoman for the 21st century: The Real Lakmé. 

L'Orient Works & Process Joyce Theater Foundation/Dance Lab NY Creation Grant. Photo credits: Robert Altman / Works & Process
at the Guggenheim and Whitney Browne photography (2019)

And so which of our five will win the golden prize—the right to represent the 21st-century woman? And in a world where sex still sells, what do words like “strength” and “independence”—and even “authenticity”—really mean? Is the “new Lakmé”, ultimately, just as trapped as the old one? 

Model Set Design By: Audrey Vuong

 
Draft Set-Nov 2 2022 _edited.jpg

The audience enters and is immediately invited to a multimedia experience through video, sound, and lighting: archival clips introduce us to the 1883 opera Lakme by Leo Delibes. The scenographic space is an architecture of suspended and metal-framed screens: transparent and translucent fabrics. 

At the end of the scenic tour, we discover an atrium composed by other kinds of surfaces to project on: Scrims and PVC screens open on a string curtain through which the audience watches the performers prepare for the show. 

The audience crosses the string curtain and enters through the backstage of a TV show set. People are seated on several rows of bleachers arranged in a circle around the stages composed by platforms at different levels. At the end of the stage, a backdrop blends high-tech and Indian architecture. Various screens, in front and around the spectators, host the digital characters. On others, they watch the screen-mirroring and live edits for a TV audience. 

Throughout the performance, the spectator switches from the realism of a TV Show to a theatrical atmosphere -- throughout dreamlike changes of scenery -- moving across the twin realities of the live show and what's being broadcasted. The immersive scene challenges the viewer's perception.