A masterpiece would stand the test of time, and continues to attract interpretation, from one medium to the next. A literary masterpiece does not end in book pages, but continues to inspire and morph into other forms. Eduard Douwes Dekker/Multatuli’s work Max Havelaar will be adapted into an opera by Indonesian renowned pianist Ananda Sukarlan in Festival Seni Multatuli (FSM).

Ananda Sukarlan considered Multatuli an inspiration. Since his studying days in the Netherlands during the 1990s, the Jakarta-born pianist had wanted to create music based on Multatuli’s works.

That is why Ananda did not hesitate to agree when the Museum Multatuli managers asked him to take part in FSM. For the festival he created an opera out of a fragment from Max Havelalar, Saidjah and Adinda’s scenes. It is his love letter for Multatuli. “Saidjah and Adinda are always on my mind,” Ananda confessed.

That said, Ananda admitted that the preparation for the opera was not that straightforward. He would have preferred more time. “The problem is, I was just given a few weeks to come up with something, and I also have to send it to musicians for them to have enough time to rehearse,” Ananda revealed.

He felt he was greatly helped by two long-time collaborators for the show: soprano Mariska Setiawan, who will play as Adinda, and tenor Widhawan, as Saidjah. That is why Ananda felt the universe is supporting his show.

Ananda explained that he adapted two scenes from Max Havelaar as the main story for the opera. These are Saidjah and Adinda’s dialogue before Saidjah departed to seek fortune, and Saidjah’s return home to find Adinda dying after being stabbed by a Dutch soldier.

“I also used the first scene [of Max Havelaar], when the young Saidjah saw his father being arrested by the Dutch,” Ananda said. He interpreted the scene as a dance choreographed by Chendra Panatan, accompanied by an arrangement of piano, cello, flute, marimba, and some other percussion instruments.

Ananda said that the scenes would be part of a longer opera which will be performed in 2020 to celebrate 200 years of Multatuli. Do not miss it and witness the Opera Saidjah dan Adinda fragment by Ananda Sukarlan on 8 September at Festival Seni Multatuli. Festival Seni Multatuli will be held in 6–9 September 2018 at Rangkasbitung, Lebak, Banten.