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Layla and Majnun with Silkroad Ensemble and Mark Morris Dance Group at Melbourne International Arts Festival

  • Saint Kilda Road VIC Australia (map)

Their love is as clear as the desert sky, but for Layla and Majnun destiny is a cruel matchmaker.

Pre-dating Romeo and Juliet by a thousand years, this epic romance forms the basis for a dance and music work that is a sensory feast of swirling movement and eye-popping colour. Over a century ago Uzeyir Hajibeyli’s Layla and Majnun debuted as the Middle East's first opera—now a host of our era's finest artists rework this classic tale for the twenty-first century.

Legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma brought the Silkroad Ensemble’s chamber arrangement of the Azerbaijani opera to prodigious choreographer Mark Morris, who draws from ballet, modern and folk dance to create a style of movement unique to this work. The virtuosic performers of the Silkroad Ensemble fuse musical traditions across cultures, centred by mugham singers Alim Qasimov alongside daughter and protégée Fargana Qasimova, whose vocal commands have earned them rockstar status.

Backed by a dazzling design by Howard Hodgkin—one of Britain's greatest contemporary artists—and accented by flowing gowns and tunics in coral and blue, this tragedy of unfulfilled yearning is ultimately elevated into a communal celebration of love's power beyond the temporal plane.