It’s not often that residents of the Hudson area get the insider’s view on a new creation – particularly one based on a novel that has sold over 30 million copies world-wide. But with the workshop performance of Act II, Hudson will be among the first to hear the creation of composer Sheila Silver and librettist Stephen Kitsakos – A Thousand Splendid Suns – a brand new opera.
Based on the international best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, and set in Afghanistan from the mid-1970s to the present era, the opera tells the story of two women from different walks of life, one older, one younger, forced into marriage with the same brutal man. Initially cold to one another, they form a bond that enables them to survive and ultimately risk their lives for a chance at freedom.
“When I first heard the story I was listening to a book-on-tape,” said Silver. “The tears were streaming down my face. But, as much as I loved it, I thought the story was too complicated for an opera.” A few years later, she changed her mind. And so, in collaboration Stephen Kitsakos, a long-standing colleague, the story is now being adapted for the stage. The final production will debut in Seattle in 2020.
Not only was it a challenge to keep the feel of the story while setting it to music, the composer felt it necessary to include some Middle Eastern instruments – to give it the feel of place. “We weren’t writing a Middle Eastern opera,” she says, “but we wanted to convey the sounds of the Middle East.” Hence the composer’s 6-month stay in India – an expedition made specifically to work with and learn from native musicians.
Please enjoy a sampling of their amazing work so far with these audio clips below:
Orchestral Opening- 1:02
You can hear the result in the Orchestral Prelude– an introduction to the world and sound of Afghanistan: an evocative dialogue between the Indian flute called bansuri and the cellos and bassoon.
Tarik and Laila, I Pass- 1:27
More exemplary of the traditional great love stories often depicted in operas is the duet between Tariq & Laila. The 14-year-old, Laila, and her slightly older boyfriend recall a poem about Laili & Manjoon, the “Romeo & Juliet of the East” that they learned in school.
Market Scene- 1:22
Finally, the more extensive opera company can be heard in this market scene. Taking place in Deh-Mazang where local women, secular and religious, modern and traditional, meet to talk about a popular women’s topic – their husbands’ lovemaking abilities.