Mesmerising large-scale Azerbaijani dance opera headed for Melbourne Festival

Get the latest from Beat

Mesmerising large-scale Azerbaijani dance opera headed for Melbourne Festival


Arriving as a capstone performance of this year’s Melbourne Festival comes Layla and Majnun, a cross-cultural performance that pairs a classic Middle Eastern love story with choreography from American visionary Mark Morris and the legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble. 

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.

“This work made its debut over one hundred years ago as the Middle East’s first opera,” said Melbourne Festival Artistic Director Jonathan Holloway. “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.”