Lord Byron called the story of Layla and Majnun the “Romeo and Juliet of the East.” It is a tale that has been reinterpreted in countless artistic forms over time, and in 1908, Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli turned it into the first Middle Eastern opera. In 2007, the Silkroad Ensemble reimagined the score as a 45-minute chamber arrangement in collaboration with Alim Qasimov, a renowned mugam singer from Azerbaijan. Today, choreographer Mark Morris has given the work new life as an evening-length dance production with costume and set design by painter Howard Hodgkin, lighting design by James F. Ingalls, and music from the Silkroad Ensemble.
Listen as Aida Huseynova — adjunct lecturer in music at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and Silkroad’s research advisor — talks about the evolution of Layla and Majnun and its significance to Azerbaijani culture.
Read the New York Times review of the world premiere performance.