“What a beautiful way to start the Ramadan, it is a time of sharing, how wonderful we can share this moment with it our neighbors that are not Muslim”. This was the reaction of a significant part of the audience of the project “Majnun and Leyla” at Mercatorplein in Amsterdam-west in the summer of 2016.
With “Majnun and Leyla”, World Opera Lab had intended to create a performance with music from India to Morocco and everywhere in between, to create a shared experience of beauty, borrowing the aesthetics of traditional music-drama’s from Iran and India. We were baffled to find people were coming three days in a row to our tent on the square, watching the performance, calling it ‘a celebration’. We did intentionally use elements of rituals, like wedding music from Marrakech and qnawa style ceremonies, yet that we had created an alternative –intercultural- ceremony we did not foresee.
World Opera Lab opera’s are based on intensive research in traditional music-drama outside Europe, currently we mostly work in Amsterdam-west, working with communities. In our opera’s we search for common grounds between cultures in music, myths and movement. We are very proud we manage to reach a very diverse audience, from all walks of life, and create a shared sense of community with them. To give you an idea, these are two trailers of two of our larger works:
Meanwhile the social fabric of our community is under a lot of pressure. Next to tensions between communities, there is an ongoing process of atomization. Never in history has there been so many one-person households. This process is not only visible in Amsterdam-west, but all over Europe. It has become very to difficult to built a nurturing community.
We would like to collaborate with companies in other European cities, with a similar dynamics as Amsterdam-west, and work on creating new interreligious ceremonies to enhance a greater sense of community and belonging. Opera’s based on religious stories will be the point of departure. In 2017 we will focus on one universal story: Abraham and Isaac/Ibrahim & Ismael and similar stories like Jepthe (Carrissimi & Händel), Idomeneo (Mozart) and Iphigenia (Gluck). In all these stories a father has vowed to kill his own child, as an offering before or after a war, or as a sign of faith. The replacement of the child with a sacrificial animal is celebrated in many religions, like on Eid al- Adha, however the story leaves us with many questions.
Together with companies in other European cities we would like to explore old ceremonies and create new ones. Every community has its own colors, and thus the results will vary widely in every city. Meanwhile we safeguard intangible heritage of the communities we work with. Other companies could be working on other stories and ceremonies, but having the same goals in mind.
“Offer” in Dutch means sacrifice, but also offering, which touches the heart of most religious practices. In the process we will start to collect heritage of different communities, songs, stories and ways of offering In 2017 we will start to research with our community on what these stories mean, and look for stories and ceremonies from around the globe. The process will start with small performances and debates about Abraham and Isaac (with music of Benjamin Britten and Quran recitations) in the spring, and eventually culminating into an alternative interreligious celebration of Eid al-Adha, where the musical and ceremonial heritage of different communities will be heard and seen. We aim to create a flexible performance, which could be adapted and shown on other significant holidays in which offerings play a major role, like All Souls and Ashura.
World Opera Lab has developed new methodologies for artistic exchanges with artists from different traditions and disciplines. As a part of this method we created new ways of audience participation, based on exchanges happening during ceremonies. We would like to exchange these methodologies with companies in other cities, and learn from their methods of working.
Eventually, we will work towards creating parallel performances on important holidays, each having their own unique flavors and colors while showing the unity of a new and diverse Europe.