Based on the ancient Persian fable of Layla and the Majnun
An Opera in Two Acts
Story by Richard Danielpour and Debbie Danielpour
Libretto by Debbie Danielpour Music by Richard Danielpour
Directed by Peter Kazaras
Setting: The opera resets the ancient tale in Teheran, 1980, after the Islamic Iranian revolution. It begins on the first Nowruz (Persian New Year) after the revolution.
Languages: The work will be set in English and Farsi. Frequent use of poetry by the great Persian poets Jahalladin Rumi and Omar Khayam will be invoked throughout.
1 Flute, 1 Oboe (doubling English Horn) 1 B-flat clarinet, 1 Bass Clarinet, 1 Bassoon, 2 Horns, 1 Trumpet, 1 Trombone,
Timpani + 2 Percussion, Harp, Strings (minimum 4, 4, 3, 3, 1).
Total number of orchestra players: 28. (Size of string section might be expanded as needed.)
Layla, (Lyric Soprano) an Iranian woman in her 20s, educated in Paris; daughter of a high-ranking Mullah in Khomeini's Islamic Republic of Iran.
Danie’l, (Lyric Baritone) 25-30, born in Iran to a middle class Jewish family, educated in the U.S. Now a poet and writer, his father is an engineer in the palace in which Layla and her parents live.
Rashid, (Heroic Tenor) a top member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and an ally and protégé of Amir. A warrior and politician by nature.
Amir, (Bass) Father of Layla, a high-ranking cleric in Khomeini's theocratic regime.
Anoosheh, (Lyric Mezzo Soprano) the attendant and maid of Layla.
Yousef, (Bass Baritone) Father of Danie’l.
Chorus, (SATB) 18 – 24 townspeople
In the bazaar, Layla is captivated by Danie’l’s magical verses. They both fall instantly in love and sing one of the poems in the book Layla buys from Danie’l.
Eventually, the couple meets in secret. They are caught by Layla's father and Rashid, Amir’s lackey who aspires to rise in the ranks of the new government. Rashid threatens to kill Danie’l if he ever sees Layla with him again.
Weeks later Danie’l discovers that Layla’s parents have arranged for her to marry Rashid. She is sequestered until the wedding and Danie’l is heartbroken and desperate. He is now called the Majnun or crazy person by the townspeople. Danie’l’s father Yousef helps Danie’l gain entrance into the palace. Danie'l begs Layla not to marry Rashid. He is beaten and carried away.
Rashid condemns Danie’l to the infamous Evin prison in Tehran. Danie’l is deprived of food and light. He hallucinates, seeing Layla’s union with Rashid. Accused of spying for Israel, he is tortured and blinded before being released from prison.
Layla suffers at the hands of her husband. Her pregnancies end in miscarriages. She refuses to sign a proclamation or Fatwa that demands Danie’l’s death and is stripped of her privileges.
Years later, Layla sees the Majnun at the bazaar. Blind and half mad, singing his poems to his beloved, Danie’l does not recognize Layla. She sings from the poem they shared at their first meeting. Their verses weave into each other’s; they are singing of love, forgiveness and how all peoples share the same wishes. But Layla fails to make Danie’l recognize her. He simply hands her a flower, blessing her.