Two Sisters: An Arabic Opera
A new and original work specially commissioned for the Ahbab Festival Cambridge
- Composer: Alya Al-Sultani
- Soprano: Alya Al-Sultani
- Soprano: Alice Zawadzki
- Ensemble: Karama
- Special guest: Shirley Smart
- Conductor: Dolan Jones
There are very few operas with Arabic libretto in existence. In her first opera composition, Alya Al-Sultani, a British-Iraqi soprano and singer of Iraqi folk music, explores a decision that has been close to many Arab hearts - the decision to stay or to leave. From the exodus of Jewish Arabs decades ago to the very current exodus of Syrian refugees, the decision to stay or leave and the heart-wrenching consequences of either choice has come part of the Arab fabric. As a child Iraqi refugee, she has felt and observed the longing for home in her parents coupled with the relief of safety and this opera is drawn from these personal experiences.
Two Sisters is an opera in one act for two sopranos. The role of Laila is played by Al-Sultani. The role of Maya is played by Alice Zawadzki, a British-Polish singer who not only carries a family history of the refugee experience but has been working directly with refugees for the last two years. They are joined by Karama, an ensemble of Middle Eastern music specialists led by oud player
Soufian Saihi and Shirley Smart, a cellist renowned for her improvisation and knowledge of Middle Eastern music.
Musically, the composition brings in features of classical Arabic music and folk music, playing lightly with maqam and traditional rhythms while leaving improvisational space in which the music can develop in multiple directions.
Opening Act: Joseph Tawadros (Oud)
Part of Ahbab Festival, an Arabic music festival celebrating themes of love in music and film.
Alya Al-Sultani is a British-Iraqi vocalist and composer. Her first musical experiences were Iraqi folk songs sung by her great grandmother and radio broadcasts of Um Kolthum, Abdel-Halim and Fairouz. After leaving Iraq, her family settled in London where she received classical training in voice and piano. With a career now spanning 20 years, she has performed as a soloist worldwide. She continues to develop her music in opera, Arabic and improvised music.
"At full power, she is formidable." The Times
Alice Zawadzki is a vocalist, violinist and composer, and a distinctive presence on the European scene. She has been a soloist with the Tokyo, Kansai and Prague Philharmonic orchestras, toured worldwide and played her own music at most major UK jazz and alternative music festivals and venues.
“She is a genuine original” The Guardian
Shirley Smart is one of the UK’s most versatile and creative cellists – being equally at home and well versed in jazz and Middle Eastern music as she is in classical music. Originally trained in classical cello under Raphael Wallfisch at the Guilldhall School of Music, and Janos Starker in Paris, she subsequently moved to Jerusalem. She remained for 10 years, studying and performing a wide variety of world music from the Mediterranean and Middle East, as well as jazz, and became being highly involved with the jazz and improvised music scene.
Led by oud-player Soufian Saihi, Karama is an ensemble of improvisers and empathic listening musicians from Morocco, UK, Spain, Japan and Venezuela. The ensemble wanders brilliantly through diverse sonic landscapes, across meditative and melodic arcs, created with instruments of the East and of the West that come together in a healthy and beautiful sonic balance.
Joseph Tawadros is one of the world’s leading oud performers and composers. A virtuoso of diversity and sensitivity, Joseph performs in concert halls worldwide and is known for his brilliant technique, deep musicianship and joyous style of performance.
Running times (subject to change)
- Bar and food from 6pm.
- Auditorium doors open 7pm
- Joseph Tawadros 7.30pm
- Interval 8.30pm
- Two Sisters. An Arabic Opera: 9-10.15pm
Under 14s must be accompanied by an adult.
All prices shown include a booking fee.