Varijashree Venugopal


Riccardo Nova’s feature-length work Mahābhārata deals with the Indian epic of the same name. With its over 100,000 double verses, the Mahābhārata is one of the longest poems in the world and tells the story of a conflict between two rival families.

The complex epic is about the rule of the kingdom of Kurukshetra and the famous Battle of Kurukshetra, in which almost all the warriors of both sides were killed. However, the Mahābhārata contains not only these epic storylines, but also many sub-stories dealing with topics such as religion, ethics, philosophy and spirituality. With its profound examination of Hinduism and its various aspects, the epic offers a unique perspective on human existence and its challenges.

Riccardo Nova’s Mahābhārata (mantras, fights and threnody) is part of a large-scale trilogy and was premiered in 2022 at the Philharmonie Essen with soloists Varijashree Venugopal, Guru Prasanna and B.C. Manjunath conducted by Peter Rundel.

Riccardo Nova – Mahābhārata (mantras, fights and threnody) (2020)
for carnatic musicians, ensemble and electronic
Composition comission by Philharmonie Essen

Varijashree Venugopal, voice and indian flute
BC Manjunath, mridangam
Guru Prasanna, canjira
Paul Jeukendrup, sound direction
Ensemble Musikfabrik
Peter Rundel, conducter

World premiere on 29.10.2022 at NOW! Festival in the Philharmonie Essen, produced with the support of  the comissioners from the Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien.

Further information

Varijashree Venugopal, Guru Prasanna and B.C. Manjunath were interviewed by Thomas Fichter in December 2021. In the interview, they talk about how they integrate their Carnatic roots into their work and have sharpened their musical skills on a microscopic level.

The entire interview in the blog post: ‘To sharpen a knife’

Varijashree Venugopal


B.C. Manjunath


Guru Prasanna

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Riccardo Nova – Mahābhārata (Mantras, Fights and Threnody) (2019-21)
for Carnatic musicians, ensemble and electronic
Commissioned by Philharmonie Essen

Varijashree Venugopal, voice and Indian flute
BC Manjunath, mridangam
Guru Prasanna, canjira
Ensemble Musikfabrik
Peter Rundel, conductor
Paul Jeukendrup, sound direction

Janet Sinica, video/editing
Riccardo Nova, audio editing
Julius Gass, recording producer
Live record from the NOW! Festival/Philharmonie Essen in October 2022

press quotes

Carnatic music works with rhythm and melody – that is, it works horizontally.
Riccardo Nova, on the other hand, refers to the vertical western tradition, in which harmony is in the foreground.
In his opera Mahabharata, he would like to bring the two both ways of thinking together.
A megalomania that can fascinate or end in chaos.

WDR 3 Tonart, Ida Hermes