Arjuna’s Dilemma Opera In Kathmandu

With a collaborative spirit - artists from USA, Europe and Nepal will perform Arjuna’s Dilemma at Patan Durbar Square from September 3 to 11. However, there will be no performance on September 6 and 7.

Aug. 21, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol 10, No.2,August 12,2016,(Shrawan,28,2073)

With a collaborative spirit - artists from USA, Europe and Nepal will perform Arjuna’s Dilemma at Patan Durbar Square from September 3 to 11. However, there will be no performance on September 6 and 7.

“It is the first Opera to be performed in Nepal. It is based on the text of the Bhagavad Gita and also the poetry of Kabir. It is a very unique production, on a majestic scale,” Kavita Srinivasan, Publicist/Educational Outreach of Arjuna's Dilemma in a press release.

Organized by One World Theatre’s International Premiere, music Composer of opera is Douglas J. Cuomo. Similarly, Jonathan Khuner and Deborah Merola are music Director and Stage Director respectively.  

“One World Theatre is proud to present Arjuna’s Dilemma, a 70 minute contemporary fusion opera by the American composer Douglas J. Cuomo. It is a truly collaborative project on a majestic scale, bringing more than 40 artists from USA, Europe and Nepal to perform among the beautiful ruins of Patan Durban Square. It had premiered in New York in the 2008 BAM Next Wave Festival. The music drama is based on text from the ancient Indian epic, the Bhagavad Gita, and the poetry of Kabir,” said a press release.

 The story follows warrior Prince Arjuna as he engages in a legendary philosophical dialogue on the eve of the first conflict of a massive civil war. Like the Nepalese people who suffered through a recent brutal civil war and then the devastation of the 2015 Twin Earthquakes, Arjuna can vividly imagine the coming destruction and wants “to stop my chariot”--a powerful refrain in the opera. Arjuna turns to his most valued advisor, Krishna, for advice.

Musically, Cuomo’s chamber opera brings the story of Arjuna’s Dilemma to life by fusing western classical music with jazz and Indian classical music into a true multi-cultural event. It sees an acclaimed international cast and production team bringing an original opera to Nepal, a country which has hardly ever experienced or produced one.

Music Director Jonathan Khuner notes, “I've been working 35 years in the operatic medium, but this project expands far beyond the boundaries of my existing métier. We are recruiting people from vastly different backgrounds and fields, for almost all of whom the content, the organization, and the actual opera production experience are very new.” The goal is to engage in a true transcultural project that brings together the combined expertise, traditions and culture of all the participants.

To capitalize on the common ground of musical improvisation at the heart of Indian classical music and jazz, Cuomo explains, “The Indian singer, tabla player and jazz saxophonist each use their respective improvisatory traditions to reach for the ecstatic, the sublime and the terror that make up the emotional world of this work.”

Merola’s imaginative production incorporates Nepali actors Rajkumar Pudasaini and Salil Subedi as the embodiment of Krishna and Arjuna, as well as movement and tableaux by physical actors depicting the plight of humanity. Arjuna’s bow Gandiva is personified by the French ballerina Alize Biannic. Merola comments that she wanted to bring in the human plane that exists parallel to the divine plane. “The ordinary life of Nepali people is gentle, family orientated, marked by wonderful rituals and festivals conducted daily on the corners, doorsteps and within ordinary living spaces.”

The complex of Hindu temples, courtyards, and a palace museum holds deep spiritual meaning for the Nepali people. Says international opera singer Annalisa Winberg, “The damage from the earthquake represents a national wound, to which we hope to bring a small measure of healing with this work, which is so spiritual in nature.”

Krishna’s response to Arjuna painfully recalls the earthquake.

One World Theatre (OWT) is a non-profit English and Nepali language theatre company in Kathmandu, Nepal, dedicated to presenting intercultural, social justice productions, especially plays from South Asia, the Western canon and contemporary American plays that are affordable, professional, experimental and relevant.

 September 1 is a low-cost Preview for neighborhood residents of Patan Durbar Square, September 2 the Gala Reception and International Premiere, (September 6 no performance to resent opera voices), September 7 a presold school matinee, with public performances September 3-11, 2016 at 7 pm.

“We hope Arjuna’s Dilemma will affirm the enduring beauty of South Asian arts and culture, encourage the return of tourism to Patan Durbar Square, and raise funds for temple reconstruction in this UNESCO World Heritage Site,” said press release.

According to a press release, this project allows for maximum intercultural exchange between the visiting American guest artists and the local Nepali community. In addition to the onsite training and employment of Nepali artists, artisans, technicians and theatre workers, the American artists are offering free singing workshops, classes, lectures and concerts. In turn, the Western artists greatly look forward to learning about contemporary and traditional South Asian arts from their Nepali peers, a rich intercultural exchange that surely will benefit both groups.

One World Theatre is collaborating with the premier performing arts organizations in Nepal: Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory, led by Founder Mariano Abello, the international Jazz artist from Spain; and Katmandu Chorale: led by Director Hannah Dornon, made up primarily of singers from Embassies, NGOs, International Schools and expats; and Sushila Arts Academy: led by Founder and Principal Yulia Koirala. “We also are working closely with the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust and the Patan Museum.

Douglas J. Cuomo, composer, creates unique original music for concert and theatrical stages, television, and film. Recent works include the operas Doubt, commissioned and premiered by Minnesota Opera; Arjuna's Dilemma, premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival; and Black Diamond Express Train to Hell, premiered by the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. His music is also known to non-classical listeners through his many distinctive themes for front line television and film, Sex and the City and NOW with Bill Moyers, and many others. A professional guitarist in his teens, Cuomo studied jazz, world music, and ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University and jazz guitar at the University of Miami, later playing in jazz, pop and funk bands.

Jonathan Khuner , music director, conductor and prompter for the San Francisco Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Bayreuther Festspiele, New Israeli Opera and many other theatres and orchestras. In 2013 he conducted Albania’s first ever Wagner opera production Tannhäuser and Wagner’s Ring in One Evening for Minnesota Concert Opera in 2013.  Khuner was Artistic Director for West Edge Opera from 1994 to 2009, and now serves as Music Director, with over 70 operas to his credit, where he has just completed a production of Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen.  In the summer of 2015 he conducted a highly acclaimed West Edge production of Alban Berg’s Lulu.

Roy Stevens, Co-producer and voice of Arjuna, international opera singer, has performed major roles around the world, from Teatro alla Scala in Milan, to the Metropolitan Opera, Barcelona’s Gran Theatre del Liceu, Dresden’s Semperoper, Valencia Symphony, and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In 2013, he was the Artistic Consultant, Producer, Leading Tenor, Vocal/Language Coach for Albania’s first ever Wagner opera production, Tannhäuser.  In 2012, he portrayed the Albanian national hero, Skanderbeg, during the National Celebration of 100 Years of Independence, a unique collaboration at the level of international diplomacy. Roy and his wife, Annalisa Winberg, have inspired more than 500,000 students, through their educational program, AmazingVox School Residencies.


Gurudev Kamat is a classical Hindustani vocalist from Siraha, Nepal. He is the proprietor of Gurukul Music School and the Vice-president of Third Eye International Organization. He has been a board member of Radio Nepal from 1998-2001. He has been the recipient of numerous awards at the national and international level, and has toured extensively all over the world for performances.

Annalisa Winberg, Soprano and Trainer of female chorus international opera singer, has performed with many orchestras and opera theatres, including the Dallas Opera, Boston Opera Theatre, German National Theatre of Weimar, New Israeli Opera, Kamptal Festpiele, Tirole Festspiele, National Theatre of Guatemala, New York Opera Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and many others. She was honored to be involved with the Albanian National Richard Wagner Premiere as leading soprano, performing both Elizabeth and Venus, and as Vocal/Language Coach for the opera Tannhaüser. Annalisa Winberg has won numerous international vocal competitions, and is also a very successful trainer of voices, from classical to pop and mariachi.

Greg Mitchell, scenic designer  and assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a freelance designer for theatre, opera, dance, music, television, and corporate events. His lighting and set designs have been seen internationally and in New York, Off-Broadway and regionally, in many important theatres and venues. For television, his work as an art director has been viewed on MTV, VH1, CNBC, EPSN, and the Fuse Network. In addition to UCSB, he has taught or been a guest artist at Whitman College, Fort Lewis College, Juilliard, Catholic University, The University of Maine at Orono, CUNY Laguardia and others. Particularly memorable projects include: designing costumes for Wagner's Tannhaüser for Albania National Theatre and production design for The Tempest sponsored on the Coney Island Boardwalk.






Irregularities in Hydro

Bikash Thapa

Leaving some exceptions, the cost of almost hydropower projects, promoted by Nepalese private sector, in Nepal, are manipulated. Showing this and that reasons and making different pretext the cost of the projects is made high unnaturally. Further, some promoters, without fulfilling rules and procedures, are taking money from the projects in the time of contracting. The private sector should not obey the government procurement rules and that is misusing by them. Promoter of the project should invest themselves for equity. But they are able to take money in the time of contract and not only able to make equity but success to have extra money. This is the general tendency in hydro power projects that almost promoters are making money in such a way.  These acts are doing even by well established business enterprise in Nepal. The direct effect goes to the general public, who is investing their money on project as general shareholders, which projects should open the public share. There is rule that every project should issue the share to the general public. The understanding of general public is each and every hydro power project is regarded as Chilime Hydropower Company, that has an lucrative Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with its sister company, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). While the price of listed hydropower companies' share is not exceeding than Rs. 800 per share, the per share market value of Chilime is not below than Rs. 1500. So, by its nature of PPA, Chilime is most attractive hydropower company, even rather than Khimti and Bhotekoshi, whose PPAs are made in US Dollar currency. That's why general public are more keen interested for benefited through the hydropower share, as if they are going to take the share of Khimti and Bhotekoshi. But, the general public ignores that rate of return and payback period of those hydropower companies, who is issuing public share. On the other hand, the infiltrated costs of the projects are fulfilling by such general public shares in the projects.

This kind of tendency was started with the entry of private sector in Nepalese hydropower sector. US Dollar dominated Khimti and Bhotekoshi, the first private companies in Nepalese hydropower, whose project cost was very high than actual, taught Nepalese investors that how to make a project without investing even equity. The actual cost of the Bhotekoshi was 60 million US$, but it showed 110 million US$. The exact cost of Upper Trishuli 1 (216 MW), which is going to do PPA and Power Development Agreement (PDA) with the government, is estimated to be Rs. 35 billion Nepalese Rupees, but the promoter of the project Nepal Water and Energy Development Company has shown its cost for 60 billion Nepalese Rupees. In the same manner, an ongoing Upper Dordi A (25 MW), is also doing same as Khimti and Bhotekoshi. The promoter of Upper Dordi A, Liberty Energy Pvt. Ltd. is also increasing its cost by doing unfair contract of civil and tunnel. The company did contract with Bajraguru, whose initial proposed cost was very high (950 million Nepalese Rupees). Later the company negotiated for cost and made contract with 750 million Nepalese Rupees. Whereas the second lowest (840 million Nepalese Rupees) propose was come from another contractor, to whom the company did not summon for negotiation. It is obvious that without involving the second lowest company, the contract deal was made secretly. While releasing the money as per the financial agreement, the bank did not investigate and follow the procedures of contract. Banks invest the deposit of public money in such a project. When the cost of project is high the risk factor for depositor also increases. In addition, Upper Dordi A will issue public share in coming days, but long payback period and short rate of return of the project may hazard the public interest too. The project cost is estimated to be increased by Rs. 20 million per MW, only 500 meter tunnel excavation work is completed now, whereas 2.5 kilometer long tunnel is to be carried out. On the part of civil, project is failed to divert the river 2016 dry season.  The project was scheduled to be commissioned on September 2017. It shows the uncertainties of the project.

Considering the role of private sector in hydropower development, government has given 6 projects in the basis of competitive bidding, known as 'super six'. Government had completely studied those projects and they were ready to construct. But promoter of super six has increased the capacity; they didn't pay the upfront cost for additional increased capacity. It shows that either the government's study was not accurate and completed or private sector did this for not paying additional royalty. In other words, they increased capacity but did not pay royalty. The capacity of one project was 5 MW, they made it 15 MW.

The promoter should not be responsible for unnatural increment of project cost. Awarding the contract and increasing the cost of the project depend upon promoter's attitude. There is no any regulatory mechanism in government, who looks after all the cost and the account of the project. So some promoters are taking advantage of not having regulatory bodies in the power sector. When cost increases the public investors will suffer. So it needs to be set up separate body to overlook such irregularities in the hydropower sector.



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