‘Numinous City’ is inspired by the extraordinary true story of Tibetan nun, Nawang Sangdrol, who was imprisoned at age 15 in Drapchi prison, Tibet, for shouting support for the Dalai Lama in public. During her subsequent 11 year incarceration an extraordinary thing happened: a cassette machine was smuggled into the prison and she and other nuns managed to record a series of songs that were consequently smuggled out and became famous as ‘The Drapchi Songs’, with dire results for many of the nuns.
Her release was finally negotiated on humanitarian grounds with pressure from the Bush government of the US in 2002, as Jiang Zemin prepared to visit George Bush’s Texas Ranch.
It sounds like something straight out of a Hollywood movie but some time after arriving in the US, a former monk who protested at the same time began calling her, claiming to have fallen in love with her – they had only met at the protest all those years before; they were both incarcerated in Drapchi, but never met. By the time Sangdrol was finally released he had escaped to India; she had no recollection of seeing him, but he called every day and eventually she was sufficiently curious to travel back to India. They fell in love and married. They now live in the USA with their young son.
The title ‘Numinous City’ is a reference to the hidden powers that shape the paths we take, be they spiritual or political. It is also a reference to what becomes of us after trauma, when the ghosts of the past do not so easily depart.
Numinous City is an opera, currently in development, it had excerpt showings at the Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House in 2010 and 2011 and a showcase performance at Rubin Museum Of Art, Manhattan on November 16th 2011, co-produced by American Opera Projects, New York. To learn more about the story and see images from the New York performance please see the review on Gwarlingo.com:
‘Ga Sho (May You Be Loved)’ which plays on this page features Rebecca Siler, soprano, Maren Montalbano, mezzo-soprano and Daniel Neer, tenor. It is from a tradition within Tibet that when saying farewell, you touch foreheads together and say ‘tse ring, ga sho’ which means ‘May you live long, may you be loved’.
Development of Numinous City has been commissioned by ROH2, the development arm of the Royal Opera House, it is also supported by American Opera Projects, Rubin Museum Of Art, International Campaign For Tibet.