5 photos, 5 stories III: Azerbaijan

  20 October 2015    Read: 1297
5 photos, 5 stories III: Azerbaijan
AzVision.az presents the third part of the article by Professor Anke Pieperbrink. In this part she express her ideas about the establishment of the first opera house in Baku, the first ever opeara house in the Muslim world, and how the first ever opera piece in the Muslim world `Leyla and Majnun` was played on the stage of this beautiful opera theater.
… opera house in the Muslim world.

Azerbaijan’s opera and ballet theater was built in 1911 and was the first opera house in the Muslim world.

It is actually the result of a bet: A popular Russian singer at that time visited Baku, but when asked to come again, she denied due to the lack of a suitable venue in such a rich city.

The magnate Mailov, an admirer of her and her voice, offered her to come back in a year for the opening of the opera house. And he went ahead for the construction. The Azerbaijani philanthropist Taghiyev doubted the feasibility of the construction within a year and the bet was on: He would cover the costs if the schedule would be kept, otherwise Mailov will donate the opera house to him.

This is my abridged version of of what I could find on Wikipedia the construction of Baku’s opera house more than a century ago.

But there is more into it. It is easy to get the buildings – with or without bet – when you have the money. The point is, can you get the content: What is a opera without excellence singers?

What is a concert hall without outstanding players? What is a ballet without superb dancers? What is a university without excellent students and professors? They are nothing and the buildings are not worth the bet by their sponsors.

There is more to this story: Uzeyir Hajibeyov, an Azerbaijani composer and musician, who wrote the first opera piece in the Muslim world:

Leyli and Majnun. The story is based on a tragic love story by medieval Azerbaijan poet Fuzili and the music is a blend of Western opera and Azerbaijani mugham, the traditional Azerbaijani music (mugham asks for a post on its own). And it was only the first of his seven operas.

The blend of Azerbaijani with western elements is a central part of his work. He also wrote the anthem for the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). The idea of women’s integration in a male-dominted society is also an important element in his work and in this way he kept the legacy of ADR.

I have seen performances at the opera (and ballet) house. And certainly a special treat is to watch a performance, you won’t be able to see in a Western house such as 1001 nights.

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