L’Orient is a multidisciplinary production co-created by choreographer Preeti Vasudevan, composer Kamala Sankaram and writer/librettist Catherine Filloux that recontextualizes the orientalist gaze and its representation of women and people of color in the classical arts. The project envisions Lakmé, the lead character in the 1883 opera by Léo Delibes, as a 21st century woman. Today’s Lakmé represents the voice of a modern woman questioning the restrained role of the female in a patriarchal society.
This provocative work combines choreography based on the principals of ballet with bharatanatyam in dialogue with a score of carnatic song (south Indian classical music), operatic vocals, percussion, electronics (including amplified pointe), and a libretto that includes French, Indian Telugu, and English texts.
This project provides an opportunity for creators Vasudevan, Sankaram and Filloux to redefine opera as an intersectional landscape for eastern and western artistic disciplines. L’Orient draws on South Indian classical vocal traditions and music native to the communities from which the fictional Lakmé originates in order to challenge the cultural displacement inherent in exoticized subjects and characters in western opera.
The production is set in the chaotic environment of Reality Television. In a casting studio with live audience, a fierce audition is taking place for the finalists in the new show The Real Lakmé. With this series, Durga Tyger, an ambitious and powerful producer, hopes to conquer TV ratings with her genre-bending search to redefine the role of Lakmé in the 21st century as the ultimate superwoman. To this end they have recruited three kick-ass female celebrities – a choreographer, a composer and a writer – as the judges. These powerful women are charged with a mission to uncover the real Lakmé as the winner of the show.
Who will win? Who will represent the 21st century woman?
Photo credits: Robert Altman / Works & Process at the Guggenheim and Whitney Browne photography
Artistic Director/Choreographer: Preeti Vasudevan
Composer: Kamala Sankaram
Writer/Librettist: Catherine Filloux
Carnatic (vocal) Artist: Roopa Mahadevan
Production Designer: Robert Wierzel
Duration: 75 minutes
Proposed premiere: 2022-23 season
L’Orient was recently presented at the Guggenheim’s Works & Process as part of the Joyce Theater Foundation / Dance Lab NY Creation Grant for Women Choreographers. Initial development was supported by the 2019 Virginia Toulmin Fellowship for Women Leaders in Dance through The Center for Ballet and the Arts, NYU