Philip Glass’s operatic telling of peaceful resistance returns to the London Coliseum

24th September 2021 in Press


Philip Glass (b. 1937)
Vocal text by Constance DeJong (adapted from the ‘Bhagavad Gita’)
Book by Philip Glass and Constance DeJong

Director, Phelim McDermott
Revival Director, Peter Relton
Conductor, Carolyn Kuan


Philip Glass’s operatic telling of peaceful resistance returns to the London Coliseum

Opens Thursday 14 October (7 performances)

This October, English National Opera (ENO) returns to the London Coliseum to perform the first production of their new season: the fourth revival of Phelim McDermott’s ‘unmissable masterpiece’ (Daily Telegraph) Satyagraha.

A collaboration between the ENO and theatre company Improbable, Satyagraha marries Philip Glass’s meditative score with mesmerising stagecraft.

Exploring the concept of Satyagraha, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘truth force’ – the opera traverses Mahatma Gandhi’s development of non-violent protests as a political tool. Written entirely in Sanskrit, the work considers the power of group activism and the change that can come about through the actions of communities.

The story moves back and forth through Gandhi’s life, with the flow of time, words and music creating a hypnotic experience. Each of the three acts depicts a spiritual guardian who is linked to the Satyagraha philosophy. Act 1 features Tolstoy, Act 2 the Indian mystic and poet Tagore and Act 3 Martin Luther King Junior, representing the past, present and future of Satyagraha.

Annilese Miskimmon, Artistic Director of the ENO says: ‘It is truly fitting that this Glass masterpiece reopens the English National Opera’s 21-22 season. An extraordinary opera, describing how small actions by an individual can create immense change, it poses a message as relevant today as when it first premiered. After 18 months of presenting opera outside our home, the London Coliseum, we’re delighted to return here to perform to live audiences again, and hope that this breathtaking production will inspire and fascinate.’

This ‘mesmerisingly staged’ (The Times) Satyagraha received its UK premiere in 2007 where it broke box office records for twentieth century opera, making it one of the most popular contemporary works to be performed by the ENO.

Satyagraha is the second of Philip Glass’s portrait trilogy of operas. The first was Einstein on the Beach (1976) and the third Akhnaten (1984) which had its UK premiere at ENO in 1985, sparking a special artistic relationship between Glass and the company. This production was also the first in the ongoing partnership between Phelim McDermott, Improbable and the ENO.

Making her much anticipated ENO debut is Taiwanese conductor Carolyn Kuan. Carolyn is Music Director at the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in the US and recently conducted the world premiere of Iain Bell’s Stonewall with the New York City Opera.

After ‘stealing the show’ (Opera Now) during his ENO debut as Don José in 2020’s Carmen, American tenor Sean Panikkar makes a welcome return to the company as M.K. Gandhi  following his ‘firm of voice and full of charisma’ (LA Times) debut in this role at Los Angeles Opera in 2018.

Also returning to ENO, this time following 2017’s ‘impressive’ (The Times) UK debut as Amonasro in Aida, Musa Ngqungwana sings Lord Krishna. The South African bass-baritone possesses a ‘rich, glowing voice’ (The New York Times) and is internationally recognised for his stage and concert work.

Current ENO Harewood Artist, British bass William Thomas makes his London Coliseum live audience debut as Parsi Rustomji following his performance in the ENO’s Tosca at South Facing Festival in August 2021, his soloist appearance in the national broadcast of Handel’s Messiah in March 2021, and ENO Drive & Live: La bohème at Alexandra Palace in September 2020.

After huge success covering roles on stage in the ENO’s previous productions of Rigoletto and Orpheus in the Underworld, British soprano Gabriella Cassidy makes her official ENO debut as Miss Schlesen; while British baritone Ross Ramgobin makes his London Coliseum debut as Prince Arjuna following his role as Schaunard in ENO Drive & Live: La bohème in September 2020. British lyric soprano, Verity Wingate, will be making her ENO debut in the role of Mrs Naidoo.

The cast is completed by British baritone James Cleverton – who has performed with all of the UK’s leading opera companies – as Mr Kallenbach , British mezzo Felicity Buckland as Kasturbai − making her debut as a soloist, and British mezzo Sarah Pring, who returns to the role of Mrs Alexander following 2018’s revival.

The Olivier Award-winning ENO Chorus also takes a central role as the mass force for change under Gandhi’s inspired leadership. Integrated with the ENO Chorus are 14 members of a skills ensemble including aerialists, puppeteers, acrobats and performers from Improbable.


The ENO Orchestra is renowned for their versatility in a wide range of idioms. With their long association with the operas of Philip Glass, the orchestra will deliver this hypnotic and uncompromising score with their widely acclaimed brilliance.

The Revival Director is Peter Relton, and the Set Designer and Associate Director is Julian Crouch. Kevin Pollard is the Costume Designer, with Paule Constable as the Lighting Designer, and the Revival Lighting Designer is Kevin Sleep. The Video Designers are Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer, and the Revival Movement Director and Puppetry is Rob Thirtle.

Satyagraha opens on Thursday 14 October 2021 at the London Coliseum for 7 performances: October 14, 16, 20, 23, 27 and 28 at 19.00. October 17 at 15.00

Tickets start from £10 (plus booking fee*)

*£2.25 booking fee applies to online and telephone bookings.

Co-produced with the Metropolitan Opera, New York. In collaboration with Improbable.




Notes to Editors

English National Opera is the national opera company dedicated to one simple aim: making opera for everyone. We sing in English to be accessible to the widest possible audience, as well as offering free tickets for under 21s, and for as little as ten pounds for everyone else. We create opera that feels different, theatrical and creatively daring and have been doing this to an internationally recognised standard since being founded in 1931 as Sadler’s Wells Opera.

From the world’s first large-scale drive-in opera, creative projects with young people, and TV broadcasts on BBC Two and Sky Arts, we strive to be bold and adventurous in everything we do. We take seriously our role of not just producing innovative work, but also employing the arts as a catalyst for social good. We have partnered with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to develop ENO Breathe, a social prescribing intervention that provides crucial support to people recovering from COVID-19. So far, over 50 NHS Trusts are signed up to refer participants to the programme.

We are passionate about making opera more inclusive and representative of the society in which we live, actively recruiting musicians and singers from an ethnically diverse background in our Orchestra and Chorus Fellowships and Director Observership programme for emerging directors.

Showcasing the wealth of nationwide talent is fundamental to the ENO’s vision. Our talent development programmes continue to nurture the careers of singers (the ENO Harewood Artist programme), conductors (the ENO Mackerras Fellowship), musicians (ENO Evolve) and critics (ENO Response). Demonstrating our ongoing support and development of British talent, 90% of the cast in the 21/22 season is British, British-based or British-trained.

We believe that positive change for the industry also comes from removing barriers to access. We offer free tickets to under 21s to every performance and at every level of the theatre, and have extended discounts for under 35s. We have increased our number of relaxed performances, designed to be more accessible for those who may benefit from a more relaxed environment at the theatre.

ENO is for everyone, and always will be.