Layla and Majnun – A Classic Persian Love Story – Mark Morris’s Newest Evening Length Work World Premiere — September 30 at Cal Performances, Berkeley, CA

(Brooklyn, NY) – The World Premiere of choreographer Mark Morris’s newest, original evening length work, Layla and Majnun, will be presented at Cal Performances, at UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, September 30 – October 2, 2016. Based on the 7th century Persian love story, Layla and Majnun is produced by the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG), Brooklyn, NY and has brought together ten leading performing arts institutions who are commissioning Morris’s eighth evening length work. The lead commissioner and presenter is Cal Performances at UC Berkeley.

“The world premiere of Layla and Majnun is the magical continuation and powerful evolution of Cal Performances partnership with Mark Morris and the Mark Morris Dance Group,” said Matías Tarnopolsky, Artistic and Executive Director, Cal Performances. ”Layla and Majnun is our tenth commission with Mark, our 13th world premiere, and with over two hundred performances on our stages by the company, a celebration of a flourishing artistic relationship well into its third decade. His deeply moving, evocative, dramatic, and joyful creations are powerful signatures of our seasons, and we are honored to be the company's second home.”

Layla and Majnun explores the themes of love, madness and mysticism through Morris’s musical choreography and the mugham style of classical poetry and improvisatory song. The work will be danced by MMDG to live music performed on both western and non-western instruments by the Silk Road Ensemble with revered father and daughter Azerbaijani vocalists Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova. Though the story of Layla and Majnun has been reinterpreted in countless forms, an adaptation of this scale has never before been presented in the West. Painter Howard Hodgkin will create the stage design and costumes, and James F. Ingalls is the lighting designer. The chamber arrangement from Silk Road Ensemble members Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen with Qasimov, is based on the 1908 opera by Azerbaijani composer, Uzeyir Hajibeyli.

"The music for Layla and Majnun is unusual for its profound depth of sorrow and ecstasy. The mugham style is a thrilling and rare glimpse into old Azerbaijani culture. Love, acceptance, devotion, and peace are the ruling esthetics of this production," said Morris. 

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; and University Musical Society of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

“We are fortunate to have received great commissioning support for this new work from a group of passionate partners who view this production not only as a piece of wonderful theater but also as timely, relevant and much needed in an increasingly polarized world,” said MMDG Executive Director Nancy Umanoff.

Layla and Majnun tour dates are: Meany Center for the Performing Arts, Seattle, WA, University of Washington, October 6 – 8, 2016; Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, January 6 – 7, 2017; University Musical Society of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, October 13 – 15, 2016. Additional dates will be announced at a later date.


For more information, a microsite is available at laylaandmajnun.org.The site has interviews with the collaborators, video material, background information and will be updated periodically with developments.