When Greg Mitchell agreed to come to Nepal and design Arjuna’s Dilemma, the first Western style opera produced in Nepal, he was entering a world of South Asian arts and culture largely unknown to him. Although an Assistant Professor of Design at the University of Santa Barbara, with hundreds of design credits in regional, off Broadway, Broadway and international theatre and opera, Mitchell had never been to Nepal. In a planning visit in January 2016, he first viewed the magnificent wooden and stone carvings and statues of Patan Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the opera will be performed and, as we say in American slang, “was blown away.”
Arjuna’s Dilemma, a 70 minute fusion opera by the American composer Douglas J. Cuomo, tells the ancient story of Arjuna’s great hesitation to go to war with his kinsmen, with text from the Bhagavad Gita and the poetry of Kabir, sung in Sanskrit, Hindi and English. With Stage Direction by Deborah Merola, Artistic Director of the Kathmandu based One World Theatre, and Music Direction by Maestro Jonathan Khuner, Assistant Conductor and Prompter at the San Francisco Opera and the Met, Mitchell is joined by other American Guest Artists, including the international opera singers Roy Stevens and Annalisa Winberg, and the outstanding live sound designer Lucy Peckam.
But it is primarily to the young people of Nepal to whom Mitchell is turning to more fully understand and realize this project. His early conception of the set was to use local bamboo to create platforms and central stairs, while highlighting the carvings, Shivalinga and statue of Shiva’s bull on the stone stage of the Bhitri Chowk, where the opera will perform. (There is a low cost Preview on September 1 for the neighborhood residents of Patan Dubar Square; a Gala Reception and International Premiere on September 2, planned as a Benefit for ongoing earthquake reconstruction at the Patan Museum; and public performances at 7 pm September 3 through September 11, 2016. (No performance on Tuesday, September 6 for the opera singe