Magazine article American Theatre

20/20 Hindsight

Magazine article American Theatre

20/20 Hindsight

Article excerpt

For the past few years, Lawrence Sacharow has been working on living a life over again. Not his life, but that of the fictional Russian mystic Ivan Osokin. Sacharow's new opera, The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, is based on the novel of the same name by pre-revolutionary Russian author P.D. Ouspensky, which was itself based on the teachings of anti-Czarist guru G. Gurdjieff. The opera tells of Ivan's quest to change the misfortunes of his present by reliving the mistakes of his past. It is a project that Sacharow conceived and has spent the better part of a decade developing - and, like any labor of love, the right time for its birth eventually arrived.

Operatic proportions

Sacharow hasn't taken any shortcuts with Ivan Osokin. After first encountering the novel 10 years ago, he adapted it in 1989 for workshops with first-year students in the New York University graduate acting Program, "with the idea that it would be produced as a drama with music." A score was supplied by composer Peter Gordon, who helped Sacharow clarify the piece's structure. "We thought about Ivan moving back in time," Sacharow explains, "and asked ourselves, |What if it became an opera?' All of a sudden it seemed perfectly logical." Gordon adds, "Ivan's journey and his dilemma are of operatic proportions. So much of the play is spent within the emotional inner life of the character, which is an area where music, particularly sung music, works extremely well. …

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