The piece recounts the story that Lord Byron called the “Romeo and Juliet of the East” through original choreography from Mark Morris and a score based on a 1908 opera by the Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli. The music was first arranged for the Silk Road Ensemble in 2007 by members Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen in collaboration with Azerbaijani singer Alim Qasimov, an arrangement that the Ensemble toured with Yo-Yo Ma to critical acclaim in 2008 and 2009.
Layla and Majnun opened across the U.S. in fall 2016, featuring costume and set design by painter Howard Hodgkin and lighting design by James F. Ingalls.
Mark Morris Dance Group has brought together ten performing arts institutions to commission Layla and Majnun. The lead commissioner and presenter is Cal Performances at UC Berkeley. The additional commissioning partners are Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Chicago, IL; Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH; The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.; Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, College of Fine + Applied Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, NY; Meany Center for the Performing Arts, Seattle, WA; Melbourne Festival, Victoria, Australia; Sadler’s Wells, London, England; University Musical Society of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Sadler’s Wells, London, England.
In The Music of Strangers, Silkroad musicians reckon with the limits of art in the face of crisis. We know that music cannot stop a bullet or feed the hungry, but it can bring empathy and joy to places where they are in short supply. Silkroad musicians share the power of art making with communities from Queens to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana, and most recently with Syrian refugees living in Jordan. With your support, we can bring the joy of creativity to new corners of the world.