Opera revived in Turkmenistan

Opera, banned by former President Niyazov, is being resurrected in Turkmenistan. The premiere of “Leyli and Majnun” was performed on the eve of the birthday of the nation's sitting president, who brought opera back from disfavour.

Nazar Dovletli

2009-07-22

TURKMENISTAN — Opera, banned by former President Niyazov as alien to Turkmen culture, has been resurrected in Turkmenistan. The premiere of a revised “Leyli and Majnun” was performed on June 29 to coincide with the birthday of the nation’s sitting president

Yulis Meytus and Danatara Ovezov's opera was performed for the first time in 1946 on the stage of the Turkmen State Theatre of Opera and Ballet and remained in its repertoire until President Niyazov ordered the theatre closed in 2001.

The first performers in the lead roles were the young singers Hodzhadurdy Annayev and Maya Kuliyeva, who are husband and wife. Turkmenistan peoples' artist Kuliyeva was the co-stage manager and principal consultant 63 years later for the revival of the opera.

The rebirth of Turkmen opera actually took place a year ago with the premiere performance of “Shasenem and Garip.” The grateful artists timed their second performance to coincide with the birthday of President Berdymukhamedov, who rescued opera from disfavour and allocated US$100,000 from the state treasury to the opera company.

Unfortunately, the two revised operas did not proceed beyond their premiere performances a year apart due to a lack of funds. The president himself has expressed the hope that with these two opera premieres, a complete resurrection of the theatre will begin. Judging by the packed halls for the events, there is great interest in this form of art in the nation.

Five new drama theatres have been built since Turkmenistan gained independence which professionally left much to be desired because their repertoire consisted mainly of comedies or ideological patriotic shows by people on the Ministry of Culture payroll or locals writers of little distinction. Consequently, the audiences for those productions consisted largely of soldiers and students who were force to attend to fill the halls.

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