This past January, Kamala Sankaram‘s new opera Thumbprint was premiered at the Prototpe Festival. Thumbrint tells the daring story of Mukhtar Mai, a Pakistani woman who, in 2002, refused to commit suicide after being raped (as was customary in her society). Sankaram’s opera, which was described by New York Classical Review as, “searingly, overpoweringly beautiful”, brings her story to life with full force.
Sankaram’s decision to sing the lead role in the opera was necessitated in part by the relatively small number of South Asian opera singers. She says:
The Muhktar part in thumbrint is a lyric coloratura part. It was very important to me that the cast be South Asian, or [have] as many South Asian singers as possible, and we didn’t find any lyric coloratura singers. Part of it was that there didn’t seem to be anyone else that could do it.
While Sankaram points out an issue that has been echoed by other composers writing vocal music on South Asian topics, she also does an incredible job of singing the title role herself.
In her candid interview with New Music Box magazine, Sankaram reflects on her sources of inspiration, her compositional process, and her hopes for opera in the future: