Performing Arts: A State of Love
by RASHA ELASS in Damascus
18 Jun 2010 01:29
Photo: The Iranian cast of "A State of Love," Assad Opera House, Damascus.
A State of Love, an enthralling Iranian interpretation of the classic Sufi story, debuted at the Assad Opera House in Damascus on Tuesday. Director, singer, and lead actor Mohammed Hatimi delivered a powerful, soulful performance as Sufi master Molana Jalal al Din Rumi. Roya Nonhali also made a strong impression with an energetic dual performance as narrator and in the role of the widow Krakhtoun. The costumes were dazzling and the stage lighting created an appropriately mystical ambiance. The beautiful singing of Hatimi and Mostafa Mahmoudi, accompanied by strings and percussion, held those in the opera house transfixed for the show's 90 minutes.
A tale of war, love, betrayal, and redemption that stretches over decades, A State of Love unfolds in the city of Balakh. It opens during the Islamic calendar year 604, when Jalal al Din Rumi was born. A dispute between Rumi's father and Sultan Khwarezmid Shah compels the family to resettle in the city of Larand. There Rumi's mother and grandmother die. He marries his childhood love, and the couple are blessed with a son, Ala. In turn, Ala eventually falls in love with Chemya, the daughter of a widow in the court of Seljuk King Alaa al Din Kiquabad. Soon it becomes apparent that the two lovers are star crossed.
When Rumi's wife dies of an illness, he marries the widow and brings her daughter into his home to raise her as his own. Before long an old friend of Rumi's, Shams al Din Tabrizi, arrives. As a guest in Rumi's home, he catches a glimpse of Chemya and asks for her hand in marriage. Rumi blesses the union, unaware of his son's feelings toward the young woman. Inevitably, Tabrizi finds his bride in a compromising position with Ala and, enraged, kills her. Ala vows revenge for the death of his lover, and ultimately kills Tabrizi. Rumi, however, remains unaware of this drama. For years, he searches through many lands for his friend, already dead. When he finally learns the truth, he retreats into solitude and composes one of his most important works, Masnawi.
The production, scheduled for just two performances, was sponsored by the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts and invited to Damascus by the Syrian Cultural Center in Tehran. The two countries have slowly been cultivating new cultural exchanges, including events for children. Given the effort put into mounting the show, it was a shame that its Farsi script was not translated -- it seemed that only the handful of Iranian dignitaries present and perhaps a few others could follow the dialogue. As for the rest of us, we could grasp the gist of what was happening, but only after reading a detailed description of the plot.
Rasha Elass is Chief Editor of Damascus Diaries.
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