L’Orient is a multidisciplinary chamber opera by choreographer Preeti Vasudevan and composer Kamala Sankaram that recontextualizes the orientalist gaze, and its representation of women and 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 veiled role of the female in a patriarchal society.
This provocative work combines choreography based on the principals of ballet and bharatanatyam in dialogue with a score of Carnatic (south Indian classical music), operatic vocals, percussion, electronics (including amplified pointe), and a libretto which includes French, Indian Tamil, and English texts.
This project provides an incredible opportunity for creators Vasudevan and Sankaram to redefine opera as an intersectional landscape for eastern and western artistic disciplines. L’Orient specifically uses south Indian classical vocal style and music which are native to the traditional communities from which the fictional Lakmé originates, challenging the cultural displacement inherent in exoticized subjects and characters in western opera. Conceived as a series of 12 tableaux, each tableau reveals a different social custom to question its place in current society and women’s agency.
Photo credits: Robert Altman / Works & Process at the Guggenheim and Whitney Browne photography
Creator/choreographer: Preeti Vasudevan
Composer: Kamala Sankaram
Carnatic Singer: Roopa Mahadevan
Production Designer: Robert Wierzel
Duration: 75 minutes
Proposed premiere: 2021-22 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.