Leyli and Majnun at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts – Rose Theater, New York, New York.
October 26 – 29, 2017
The “Leyli and Majnun” opera by great Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibayov, who laid the foundation of the first opera in the Muslim world which is based on a love story, was revolutionary for Oriental culture, and founded the unique new genre -mugham-opera, which synthesizes Oriental and European musical forms, resembling a dialogue of two musical cultures of the East and West.
“Leyli and Majnun” opera is based on traditional Azerbaijani mughams, which are performed in their original form – meaning unwritten and improvised. The mughams called Mahur-Hindi, Segah, Chahargah, Kurd-Shahnaz, Bayati-Shiraz, Shushtar, Bayati-Kurd, Shabi-Hijran and Gatar are among those featured in the opera.
This timeless story of impossible love predating Romeo and Juliet emerges from the cultural intersections along the Silk Road. In this inspired adaptation by choreographer Mark Morris, celebrated Azerbaijani mugham singers Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova perform with the Silk Road Ensemble onstage with the Mark Morris Dance Group, featuring bold costume and set design by the late abstractionist painter Howard Hodgkin.
The mission of the Mark Morris Dance Group is to develop, promote, and sustain dance, music, and opera productions by Mark Morris and to serve as a cultural resource to engage and enrich the community.
Alim Gasimov is a prominent mugham singer named a “Living National Treasure” of Azerbaijan. He has been passionate about mugham since his early childhood, but did not pursue a career in music until the age of nineteen, after various jobs as an agricultural worker and driver. Qasimov studied at the Asaf Zeynalli Music College (1978-1982) and the Azerbaijan University of Arts (1982-1989). His teacher was well-known mugham singer Aghakhan Abdullayev. Qasimov perceives and presents mugham not only as an ancient art and a part of Azerbaijan’s musical and cultural heritage but also as a constantly developing tradition. His performing style is unique, combining deep knowledge of centuries-old rules of mugham with challenging innovations, willingly juxtaposing mugham with other music styles, such as jazz and contemporary composition. Qasimov was awarded the International IMC-UNESCO Music Prize in 1999 in recognition of his musical contributions to world peace. Past winners of this prize include Yehudi Menuhin, Ravi Shankar, Olivier Messiaen and Daniel Barenboim. Qasimov’s numerous awards also include the title of the People’s Artist of Azerbaijan, the highest artistic rank in the country. On his 50th birthday in 2007, the President of Azerbaijan awarded Qasimov the Medal of Glory.
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts – Rose Theater, New York, New York
Direction and Choreography: Mark Morris
Scenic and Costume Design: Howard Hodgkin
Lighting Design: James F. Ingalls
Music: Uzeyir Hajibeyli, (1885–1948), arranged by Alim Qasimov, Johnny Gandelsman, Colin Jacobsen
Alim Qasimov, mugham vocals (Majnun)
Fargana Qasimova, mugham vocals (Layla)
October 26 – 29, 2017
Upcoming Performances in Chicago and Washington, DC
March 22 – 24, 2018 Layla and Majnun
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Kennedy Center Opera House
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