Nizami’s “Leyla And Majnun” As Narrative Theatre

Narrative theatre after Nizami. Composition by Samir Odeh-Tamimi. Text by Albert Ostermaier
World premiere
FROM: Samir Odeh-Tamimi, Albert Ostermaier
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Peter Rundel
DIRECTOR: Willy Decker
ENSEMBLE: musikFabrik
CHOIR: ChorWerk Ruhr
LOCATION: Jahrhunderthalle Bochum
INTRODUCTION: 20., 22., 24., 26., 28., 30. August, 1., 3. September

Love between two people is not complete as long as one speaking of the other, says; ›I‹ — Sufi saying

When I say ›I‹, I don’t mean me the way you see me, but the love which speaks from me. –Layla and Majnun, Albert Ostermaier

Layla and Majnun, the most famous lovers in Islamic culture, is a love story of the most deeply spiritual kind. The Iranian poet Nizami Ganjavi put it in writing in 1188 and thereby created an epic of love with timeless appeal.

The great love between the children Qeis and Layla destroys and provokes those around them to such an extent that they must be forcibly separated. Qeis’ pain at this escalates into open madness. He leaves his homeland, parents and tribe, wanders aimlessly through the desert alone and starving, talking of nothing else but Layla and composing verses of such overwhelming beauty that they are collected and make both him and his love famous throughout the world. Qeis turns into Majnun The Madman. Although she is married to another, Layla remains faithful to him. They meet again one more time, but their love has been completely transcended and soon afterwards death redeems them.
The famous poet and playwright Albert Ostermaier has written a play for the Ruhrtriennale based on Nizami’s epic, telling the story of these lovers in an intensely emotional and radical manner and revealing the timelessness and relevance of their epos.

For the Palestinian-Israeli composer Samir Odeh-Tamimi Layla and Majnun is part of his cultural heritage. He lives and works in Germany and therefore encounters the myths of his homeland by looking from a distance – with the mass of sounds, complex gestures and radical force of his musical language. I am Majnun!, Samir Odeh-Tamimi says, laughing, during work on Layla and Majnun for the Ruhrtriennale 2010.

There is also a 16th century version of Leyla and Majnun by the poet Mohammad Fuzuli that was borrowed by the famous Azeri composer Uzeyir Hajibekov who used the material for what became the Middle East’s first opera. It premiered in Baku in 1908.