Historic Persian Love Triangle Involves Life In A New Cross Cultural Group-Composed Opera

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The relief sculpture at Bi-Sotoon that the opera is based on (Photo: Korosh.091/cropped/CC BY-SA 4.0)
The reduction sculpture at Bi-Sotoon (Picture: Korosh.091/cropped/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Negin Zomorrodi; Mojgan Misaghi; Rachel McFarlane; Arghavan Niroumand; Sina Fallah; Nasim Nabavi; Neda Edalatjoo: The Echoes of Bi-Sotoon. Cultureland Opera Collective, Array Music Area, June 6, 2024.

Who would have thought that Array Music Area, the downtown Boho-chic dwelling of Toronto’s new music, may magically flip into an historical Persian legendary mountain?

Bi-Sotoon (additionally recognized by quite a lot of totally different spellings and several other totally different pronunciations) is an archaeological and UNESCO world heritage website within the province of Kermanshah in western Iran. The primary monument is a bas-relief commissioned by Darius the Nice in 521 BC, portraying the Persian king’s ascent to the throne. That is surrounded by a 1200-line multilingual inscription in a mix of historical languages, telling tales of his battles and struggles.

At Array Music Area, the inscription is projected onto a big display screen behind the stage and set to music in a pseudo-antique type by U.S.-based composer, Mojgan Misaghi, and that includes highly effective baritone Alex Dobson as Darius, turns into the gateway to the guts of the traditional love story.

A real labour of affection and multicultural teamwork, ‘Echoes of Bi-Sotoon’ is a 75-minute, nine-scene, multi-composer collaborative piece for seven solo voices, piano, electronics and tambour (a lute-like folks stringed instrument), offered by the ‘Cultureland’ Opera Collective.

Sewn collectively lovingly and convincingly by Afarin Mansouri, the collective’s inventive director and founder, following a jury collection of compositions, and expertly supported by Cheryl Duval from the piano, Echoes is above all in regards to the timelessness of affection, as depicted by means of two symbolic figures separated by millennia: the legendary fowl, Simorgh, colourfully portrayed by baritone Alexander Hajeck, and the Little Black Fish, a extra up to date image of truth-seeking derived from Samad Behrangi’s award-winning eponymous youngsters’s guide. On this touching first scene, Taline Yeremian’s delicate voice because the fish sits completely in opposition to Hajeck’s heat resonance, underpinned by lapidary piano chords from Spanish-based composer, Negin Zomorodi.

Statue of Heracles/Herakles in Bi-Sotoon (Photo: Alieh/cropped/CC BY 2.0)
Statue of Heracles/Herakles in Bi-Sotoon (Picture: Alieh/cropped/CC BY 2.0)

Simorgh and Blackfish grow to be our companions and narrators as they retell the love triangle between Khosrow (a King of the Sassanid interval), Shirin (most likely an Armenian princess), and Farhad (solely often known as a sculpture). The story seems in lots of Persian sources, however it’s the model depicted within the twelfth century Nizami Ganjavi’s epic poem, Khosrow and Shirin, that’s mostly recognized and is referred to on this work.

Every composer contributes one scene to the narrative. Canadian composer Rachel McFarlane offers voice to King Khosrow (sung by Alexander Cappellazzo), in a melodically wealthy aria of jealousy and rivalry, as, conscious of Farhad’s love for Shirin, Khosrow tries to discourage him by imposing the inconceivable activity of carving a approach by means of the mountain in return for the beloved’s hand.

The story is then retold in Arghavan Niroumand’s piece, first by means of the eyes of Shirin (stunning ringing tone from Katheryn Rose Johnston) as she feedback on the lovers’ rivalry after which as a dialog between Khosrow and Farhad, the latter that includes the nice and cozy, wealthy bass of Gabriel Sanchez-Ortega. Sung in Persian (with astonishingly correct pronunciation from all of the singers), the music right here accommodates a extra overt reference to Persian mode-based (Dastgah) system. Sanchez-Ortega then portrays Farhad as decided and laborious at work, in Canada-based Sina Fallah’s energetically dramatic composition. Shirin’s go to to Farhad is a love duet by Nasim Nabavi, set in opposition to the picture of a starry evening.

Fallah’s second contribution depicts the tragic finish (‘Shakespearean’ in impact, though Ganjavi lived lengthy earlier than Shakespeare!). When confronted with Farhad’s bravery, Khosrow then deceives him by falsely informing him of Shirin’s dying. Misplaced in despair, Farhad then throws himself to his dying (in a easy but efficient little bit of stagecraft). His blood (in legends his axe) grows right into a pomegranate tree with therapeutic powers.

In Echoes, the pomegranate wooden is then used to assemble a tambour, seamlessly main the narrative to the present’s spotlight and its most transcendent second. Robert Simms’ tambour solo improvisation in opposition to the backdrop of pictures of blood-coloured pomegranate seeds was not solely hypnotically transfixing but additionally the right musical depiction of the symbolism of the pomegranate in Persian (and Central Asian) tradition.

The closing piece exhibits Simorgh and the Little Black Fish going separate methods, as a duet between mezzo-soprano Maryam Zunuzi and pre-recorded singing muses on loneliness and nostalgia.

The one trigger for remorse is that this absorbing present, sponsored by the Toronto Arts Council, was a one-off. Carried out on a shoestring finances (by operatic requirements), and fortunately filmed for streaming, it now deserves to be re-staged, repeatedly and broadly.

*By Michelle Assay for LvT

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