July 22, 2020
The Persian Dutch Network presents a recording which has been banned in Tehran for three decades: an opera based on a famous poem by Ahmad Shamlu, known as the ‘Poet of Freedom’ in Persia (Iran)
Shamlu was an outspoken advocate for freedom of speech in his homeland, which caused serious restrictions to his activities, imposed by both the monarchy and the Islamic regime. Shamlu was given a Freedom of Expression award by Human Rights Watch in 1991. His poems have been translated into various languages.
In 1989 the Persian composer Sheida Gharachedaghi composed an opera based on the English translation of Shamlu’s The Fairies. The poem is an allegory of freedom and slavery, and of the complex dependence of absolute human values on particular traditions and cultures. The first Persian opera with an English libretto, it was translated by the celebrated scholar Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, former director of the Persian Studies Center at Maryland University.
Performance in Toronto instead of Tehran
The Fairies faced restrictions in Iran because of the official ban on solo female singing – imposed by the regime since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran’s National Opera was also dissolved at this time but the opera was, nevertheless, premiered in Toronto in 1989 – the year of its composition – during which time Gharachedaghi worked with conductor Owen Underhill and the composers Murray Schafer and Jim Montgomery to bring the work to fruition.
25 July 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of Ahmad Shamlu’s death and, in commemoration, the Amsterdam-based Persian Dutch Network (PDN) releases the 1989 live recording of The Fairies for the first time.
Following the 2018 album Choral Music from Persia (performed by Farah Choir in 1978), The Fairies is the second album, banned in Tehran, that PDN is releasing in Europe. The release of these recordings is an attempt to introduce the unknown, yet fascinating, works of Persian composers to an international audience, and to form a resistance against the censorship imposed by the Islamic government in Tehran. This 2020 production is funded by the independent Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation, based in the United States. The CD is available on Amazon.
Sheida Gharachedaghi (b. 1941) studied at the Vienna Music Academy and began her professional career in Tehran. Gharachedaghi founded the music department of the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in 1971 and was its director for five years. Whilst there she wrote forty motion picture scores including Downpour, directed by Bahram Beizai. Shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Persia, she left for Germany, and in the mid-1980s moved to Canada. She currently lives in Montreal.
Persian Dutch Network