Narendra Kumar’s painting Krishna with Gopis

Major work by Sir John Tavener discovered by Grange Park Opera, Surrey

Grange Park Opera, Surrey, has discovered a major work by a major composer. Sir John Tavener (1944–2013), who was the one of the most acclaimed British composers of the post-war years, completed his final opera Krishna in 2005. For 14 years it has remained in manuscript form and has never been staged. Until now.

Krishna will be performed for the first time ever in June 2024 at Grange Park Opera’s Theatre in the Woods. It will be directed by opera-giant Sir David Pountney.

HRH The Prince of Wales had a long friendship with Sir John Tavener and supported the commission of The Beautiful Names in 2007. Sir John once explained what they had in common: “We share views on the importance of all religious traditions.”

The opera, Krishna, focuses on the cycle of Krishna’s life which is portrayed in 15 vignettes. The text of this two-and-a-half-hour work is Tavener’s own, expounding a Blakean philosophy that in any part of the universe is the whole universe. 15 vignettes portray the recurring cycle of Krishna’s life. He is born when the earth is crying for help and in the final vignette, the god is assumed into Paradise until the earth needs him again.

The work uses a ‘Celestial Narrator’ as a ‘bridge’ between the supernatural and the natural. Tavener wrote, “He describes each scene in the simplest possible way. He moves freely in the audience, explaining the double meaning, charming, frightening and consoling us. The music is intensely vivid and highly dramatic”.

There are challenging aspects to the work’s staging: Krishna is given a ‘halo’ of eight flutes (four of them alto flutes) which are to be “aerially positioned”.

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, a long-time admirer of Tavener’s work, asked Sir David Pountney to consider the performance potential of Krishna, after the work had been brought to his attention by Sir John’s widow, Lady Tavener.

Founder & CEO of Grange Park Opera, Wasfi Kani OBE, explains

“David Pountney brought me the project and within two days I was at Chester Music examining the 358 giant sheets of Tavener’s manuscript. It quickly became clear this was a masterpiece that needed to be brought to life. We are now actively searching for collaborators to give premières in Europe and, of course, in India. The search for Indian philanthropists begins”.