Love through the ages: 'Leyli and Majnun'

Love through the ages: 'Leyli and Majnun'

This year marks the 110th anniversary of the mugham opera 'Leyli and Majnun'. The first opera of the entire Muslim East was written by the 22 year-old Azeri composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov in 1907 inspired by the sixteenth-century poet Fizuli's tragedy of the same name.

'Leyli and Majnun' is a synthesis of the richest folklore material (mugham) and classical music. The opera contributed to the emergence of a new musical genre - the mugham opera, where the musical notation is combined with the vocal improvisation inherent in mugham.

The libretto for the opera about tragic love story was written by the composer's brother, journalist Jeyhun Hajibeyli. After that, they started work on the production, searching for the main leads. Once Hajibeyov heard the worker sing. It was Huseyngulu Sarabski, who later was assigned the role of Majnun. But who will get the female lead role? In those years, Muslim women were forbidden to perform on stage, and the Russian one could not perform mugham. The composer found his Leyli in a teahouse. It was Abdurrahman Farajev. However, it was not easy to talk him into doing this. The 15-year-old tea man agreed to perform only with the make-up to be incognito.

The troupe spent many hours rehearsing first in Hajibeyov's house and in the hotel 'Ismaliye', then in Imran Kasymov's large apartment.

For the first time the opera was staged in the theater of the oil-industrialist Haji Tagiyev on January 25, 1908. But a few hours before the premier it became clear that the two violinists did not show up. The composer had to write new scores in a hurry to play the violin himself. Thus, a masterpiece of Azerbaijani musical culture was born.

Opera 'Leyli and Majnun' was an immense success. Not only Uzeyir and Jeyhun Hajibeyli, but also performers were made famous. "After this production, people started calling me Majnun. I cherished this name, I was proud of it," Sarabski wrote in his memoirs.

And today this love story continues to excite the world. Since 1908, the opera has been staged more than 20 thousand times in different countries of the world. In addition, two films were shot based on the musical performance.

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