Very few Carnatic composers have created as many operas as Venkata Kavi. While we are very well aware of Tyagaraja’s operas such as Prahlada bhakti vijayam and Nauka charitram, there has not been much awareness about Venkata Kavi’s operas despite the fact that Rangaramanuja Iyengar has mentioned it in his own book, “History of South Indian Music." He has stated very clearly that “Venkata Kavi’s works are the earliest available evidences of the opera having been adopted by Carnatic music.” Many of these are also available in published works such as Rasa ganam Vol 2 and 3.
While it has been observed earlier that Venkata Kavi has been deeply influenced by the Bhagavata mela tradition and culture, we are not sure whether he intended his operatic creations to be presented as Tamil Bhagavata mela performances (as opposed to Telugu). But an interesting observation to be noted here is that the Bhagavata mela was converted to Telugu only during King Ekoji’s rule (the first Maratha ruler of Tanjavur). But during the earlier Chola period, there were only two classifications of languages that were used in the Bhagavata mela – North and South Indian languages.
Compositions from different operas have been discovered so far wholly or partially. Some of the operas include
Language and Styles used in operas:
Venkata Kavi has composed all his operas in Tamil even though he was well versed with Sanskrit. The lyrical style, as discussed earlier, ranges from the high-profile to the simple colloquial and on many occasions, casual, depending on the context and the characters. This shows that he was highly familiar with the concept of dramatic creations where the characters were of foremost importance and had to be projected with utmost consistency.
The available information and list of songs from some of the operas mentioned above have been shared in the upcoming menus.