So I’m sitting on the couch lamenting that “The Daily Show” isn’t as good as it used to be when The Wife comes to me and she says,
“It’s opera time. Get dressed.”
“Again? I feel like we just saw two last week. What’s this one?”
“Shalimar the Clown.”
“Didn’t we just see a clown opera last year?”
“That was Pagliacci, and it was a few years ago. I’m impressed that you kind-of remember.”
“What’s the deal with opera and clowns? I have a friend who’s a clown and he’s never had an opera written about him.”
“Well, maybe you should work on that. Now get moving.”
And so it was that we once again made our way to the Loretto-Hilton Center for the world premiere run of “Shalimar The Clown,” commissioned by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Since The Son had already been spending the day with his man-sitter, we thought it would be a nice change to pack a picnic and eat there on the grounds of the LHC. You can buy a box dinner there in advance, but Lar said the food was probably too fru-fru for me, so she got sandwiches and Culinaria. The weather was pleasant for a change and we had a good time.
“Shalimar the Clown” is a new opera based on the book by Salman Rushdie. It’s a star-crossed lovers tale (She’s Hindu, he’s Muslim) reminiscent of “Romeo and Juliet.” In fact, it would be just like “Romeo and Juliet” if R&J had been forced into marriage and Juliet ran off with the American ambassador to India and Romeo joined a terrorist group and became a top assassin and Juliet had a baby with the American ambassador but then the ambassador’s wife stole the baby so Juliet went home where she encounters Romeo (it doesn’t end well) and then Romeo goes to America to kill the ambassador.
Say, when you put it like that, “Shalimar the Clown” is a much better story than “Romeo and Juliet.” Who knew Salman Rushdie was a better writer than Shakespeare?
Remember last week when I was complaining that “MacBeth” and “La Boheme” didn’t have much plot? Well, that’s not a problem here. There is a lot going on in “Shalimar the Clown.” It was pretty easy to follow even though I never got around to reading A History of the Kashmir Conflict in the program.
You may be wondering, where’s ‘the clown’ part in all of this? Well, Shalimar (Sean Panikkar) was indeed in the local folk theater troupe before becoming a bloodthirsty assassin. It is back in his home village that he meets and falls in love with Boonyi (Andriana Churchman), a dancer. When their love affair is made public, the village leaders declare they must marry. Shali is all in favor of this but Boonyi feels she’s being rushed.
Even though she loves Shali, Boonyi feels trapped and so gladly crawls into bed with the lecherous American ambassador (Gregory Dahl). And now you know the rest of the story, assuming you read up four paragraphs.
I was impressed by the story and on-stage talent of “Shalimar the Clown.” The staging was also well-done. I wasn’t as impressed by the music. It was fine and it suited the story but it wasn’t anything memorable.
But hey, any opera that ends with a showdown between a guy with a big knife and a woman with a bow-and-arrow is aces in my book.
Remaining show dates for “Shalimar the Clown” are June 19, , 23 and 25. https://www.opera-stl.org/