Layla and Majnun

‘Layla and Majnun’ by Mark Morris Dance Group

Azerbaijani Tragic Love Story, Dance Opera Spectacular to feature exclusively at Melbourne Arts Festival

by Mark Morris Dance Group & Silkroad Ensemble | October 10-13

Melbourne International Arts Festival will host the Australian premiere of Layla and Majnun, a classic Middle Eastern story of love created by renowned American choreographer Mark Morris and Silkroad Ensemble, founded by legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Photo Mat Hayward

The tale of Layla and Majnun, the story of would-be lovers doomed to separation and death which has transfixed humanity for millennia, will be shown exclusively in Melbourne in October in the largest-scale production of this modern classic ever seen in the West!

Performing in Australia for the first time, virtuosic musicians from the celebrated Silkroad Ensemble will fuse musical traditions across cultures, alongside sixteen dancers from the Mark Morris Dance Group in their Melbourne premiere, inspired by ballet, modern and folk dance and led by one of the most gifted choreographers in the world.

Central to the work are Azerbaijani mugham vocalists, Alim Qasimov alongside his daughter and protégée Fargana Qasimova, whose vocal commands have earned them rockstar status, including a UNESCO Music Prize, one of the most prestigious international prizes in music.

Photo Beowulf Sheehan

Backed by a dazzling stage and costume design by the late Howard Hodgkin, one of Britain’s greatest contemporary artists, the stunning set will feature a backdrop of his famous painting ‘Love and Death’ which will be accented by flowing gowns and tunics in coral and blue.

Melbourne Festival’s Artistic Director Jonathan Holloway said: “This work made its debut over one hundred years ago as the Middle East’s first opera. Today, this traditional tale has been reworked by the finest artists of our generation for audiences of the 21st century in a special co-commission with Melbourne Festival.

‘Specially invited by one of the world’s greatest cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, to interpret the Silkroad Ensemble’s new chamber arrangement through movement, Mark Morris has delivered a complete feast for the eyes and ears in this re-imagining of Layla and Majnun.”

Since founding Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980, the award-winning choreographer has created over 150 works including 22 ballets and 20 operas. Described as ‘an innovator and a conservative, a satirist and a romantic’ (The New Yorker), Morris has been ranked as among the top five American choreographers of today.

Dancers Lesley Garrison, Durell R. Comedy. Photo Susan Millman

Pre-dating Romeo and Juliet by a thousand years, this tragedy of unfulfilled yearning, as described by Mark Morris as ‘an enlightening tragedy – a visually, musically and choreographically unified and self-contained concert piece,’ is ultimately elevated into a communal celebration of love’s power to penetrate even the hardest of hearts.

This must-see Australian premiere event will be performed exclusively as part of the Melbourne Festival at Arts Centre Melbourne. The full Melbourne Festival program will be announced on 25 July 2018.

‘No choreographer alive has built up a stronger reputation for musicality than Mark Morris. Visually beautiful.’ – The New York Times

‘The choreographer’s adaptation of the ancient love story is a remarkable achievement.’ – Financial Times

‘This is a dance-opera of profound grace and yearning.’ – The Washington Post

‘This is the most ambitious and profound work that Morris has created in the past ten years or more.’ – The New Yorker

Layla and Majnun | Mark Morris Dance Group & Silkroad Ensemble

Wed 10—Sun 13 October 2018State Theatre, Melbourne Arts Centre
Tickets $59—$139