Performances

Past Performance

September 30, 2016 - October 2, 2016 Layla and Majnun - world premiere

Cal Performances

Zellerbach Hall

Berkeley, California — United States

Performance Times

September 30, 2016 8:00pm

October 01, 2016 8:00pm

October 02, 2016 3:00pm

Details

Mark Morris' lyrical choreography, the emotive voices of Azerbaijan's Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, the vibrant musicality of The Silk Road Ensemble, and the striking visual palette of British painter Howard Hodgkin combine in this world premiere performance. The timeless story of the tragic love between Layla and Majnun, most notably expressed by the great Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, also was the foundation for the first opera of the Muslim world. Hajibeyli's powerful music—at once profoundly sorrowful and ecstatic—honors the tale's commitment to love, acceptance, devotion, and peace.

Direction and Choreography: Mark Morris
Scenic and Costume Design: Howard Hodgkin
Lighting Design: James F. Ingalls

Music: Uzeyir Hajibeyli, (1885–1948), arranged by Alim Qasimov, Johnny Gandelsman, Colin Jacobsen
Alim Qasimov, mugham vocals (Majnun)
Fargana Qasimova, mugham vocals (Layla)

A Berkeley RADICAL programming initiative. 


Layla and Majnun is a Mark Morris Dance Group/Cal Performances, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, California production in association with Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Chicago, Illinois; the Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC; Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, New York; Meany Center for the Performing Arts, Seattle, Washington; Sadler's Wells, London, England; and University Musical Society at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Press

Cal Performances kicks off its 2016-17 season with a star-studded bang in late September with the world premiere of Mark Morris' evening-length dance "Layla and Majnun," performed by his company and featuring The Silk Road Ensemble as well as Azerbaijani mugham vocalists Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova. The work, drawn from the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi's story of forbidden love, plays Sept. 30 through Oct. 2 at Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall.

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- The Mercury News
Over the past four decades in Iran, dancing has been either prohibited or frowned upon by the governing powers. In dramatizing a tragedy in timeless Persian song and dance, Mark Morris and his dance group are injecting new life into an endangered species from halfway around the world.

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- Artssf
A friend said to me the other day, “People go to see Mark Morris for the music.” We were discussing the upcoming world premiere of Mark Morris Dance Group’s Layla and Majnun, and why she, a dancer, wouldn’t be seeing it. The truth is not as unequivocal as that – clearly, Morris’ choreography has as many adherents as his exquisite taste in music and musical collaborators. But judging by the applause at Zellerbach Hall, where Layla and Majnun opened on Friday, 30 September, people really were there for the music. At the curtain call, they clapped respectfully for the fifteen dancers, huzzahed for the Silk Road Ensemble and stood up and cheered for the two vocalists, Azerbaijani father-daughter mugham singers Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova. It was a fair assessment of the 50-minute work, for which the music was exquisite but the slight choreography was tastefully decorative when not cloyingly frilly.

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- DanceTabs
The sixty-minute work is based on the 1908 opera by Azerbaijani composerUzeyir Hajibeyli, available on YouTube. You can’t miss its grand opera gestures which Qasimov, Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobson, however, condensed into an exquisitely focused version which retained the integrated perspective of western and Azerbaijani music. The original version's chorus and additional singers are here carried by Morris always strong dancers. Sung in the original language, super titles helped our understanding but also gave an inkling of the lush poetry and a quasi-transcendental concept of human love. Curious was the idea that love and suffering are inextricably connected; the very concept of passion, apparently, is painful.

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- Danceviewtimes
If you peek online at the Mark Morris Dance Group rehearsing Morris’s choreography for a new cross-cultural variant of the 1908 opera “Layla and Majnun,” you see movement that is clean and distilled, marking space in elegant circles and lines. But on stage Friday at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, where the company joined members of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble in performing the world premiere of this renowned opera of the East, a cross-cultural traffic jam occurred.

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- The Mercury News
Across the open and darkened stage the lights of small lamps flicker. At the back of the stage stretches an eight-foot-wide platform, and from that platform run two more ‘runways’ at a lower level. The stepped platforms fashion a squared-off C-shape pushed against the outer edges of the stage. In the center of the C is a shorter platform, with just enough room for two people to sit crosslegged, facing the audience, and sing.

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- Bachtrack
Layla and Majnun, choreographer Mark Morris’s 13th work to have its world premiere at Cal Performances, is a delight. The piece, slightly over an hour long, combines — with concision, precision, heart and brio — all the qualities that are best in Morris’ aesthetic.

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- San Francisco Classical Voice
Cal Performances sponsored a few events last month, but for many, the season opened at Zellerbach Hall Friday, Sept. 30, with the world premiere of “Layla and Majnun,” Mark Morris’ choreographed retelling of a classic Persian legend, set to exquisite Azerbaijani music by early 20th century composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli. Members of the remarkable Silk Road Ensemble and two great vocalists in the mugham style, Fargana Qasimova and Alim Qasimov, performed the arranged score, and they presented a problem by dividing our attention.

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- SFGate
BERKELEY, Calif. — “My soul is on fire because we are apart. My only wish is to perish in the world of love. My true love knows every sliver of sorrow in my heart.” “Dear God, let me feel even more despair for my love.” “The true purpose of love is sacrificing oneself.” These lines, capturing various archetypal facets of Romantic love and anguish, come from the libretto of “Layla and Majnun.” The story, known from the fifth century onward in oral versions, reached its first definitive form in the Persian romance of Nezami Ganjawi (1141-1209).

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- The New York Times
Inevitably, as the 65-minute work progresses, you find yourself immersed in something organic and wonderful.

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- San Francisco Chronicle

“No choreographer alive has built up a stronger reputation for musicality than Mark Morris” The New York Times

Morris Choreography Set to a Chamber Arrangement Performed by the Silk Road Ensemble with Stage and Costume Design from Painter Howard Hodgkin, Lighting by James F. Ingalls 

Ten National and International Performing Arts Institutions Combine Forces to Support Mark Morris’s Eighth Evening Length Work

Layla and Majnun Will Tour the US and Abroad

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At the core of the 111th Cal Performances season are what executive and artistic director Matías Tarnopolsky calls “three strands of artistic exploration”: inclusion, innovation and immersion. 
The inclusion theme kicks off with the season opening world premiere of Mark Morris Dance Group’s “Layla and Majnun,” with music performed by The Silk Road Ensemble with the voices of Azerbaijan’s Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, with sets and costumes by British artist Howard Hodgkin. 

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- Berkeleyside
The mission of the Mark Morris Dance Group is to develop, promote, and sustain dance, music, and opera productions by Mark Morris and to serve as a cultural resource to engage and enrich the community.

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