Inspired by Afghan female writers’ poems, this project amplifies the basic human right to freely tell one’s own story. This new creation initiated by the Polish stage director Krystian Lada fuses the dramatic power of opera with the impact of socially engaged art in an unusual, immersive format. It involves opera singers, dancers, a string quartet and live electronica in a staged opera installation in the architecture of a former chapel in Brussels – Les Brigittines.
In Taliban-held Afghanistan, writing, and any form of musical expression, has been considered a crime. The poems by three contemporary Afghan female writers are at the heart of this project. Roya, Meena Z., Fattemah AH and Freshta are participants of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP). AWWP was founded in 2009 in order to encourage Afghani women to develop their voices and write their own narratives, striving to change the narrative of women’s rights in Afghanistan in the process. Through AWWP, Afghan women have a direct voice in the world, not filtered through husbands, relatives or the media. Most of the writers participate in the project secretly. Their poems are raw, often devastating, and always brave in depicting the live under the niqab. Their writings convey a very universal story – the one of the female voice that strive for freedom in the patriarchal society. Read an essay by one of our writers here.
The Polish composer Katarzyna Głowicka explores the junctions between extended techniques of operatic voice and the dramatic potential of live electronics. The emotionality of the folk-inspired melodies meets minimalism of form. It expresses the harshness of the living circumstances of the Afghani writers but as well the power of the female voice striving for emancipation. Sung by a collective of three singers who represent different visions of female/ male dynamics and potential of the human voice. Three strong women create the cast of the performance: the Polish opera diva Malgorzata Walewska, the American star of young generation Raehann Bryce-Davis and the transsexual opera singer Lucia Lucas. Three soloists will be accompanied by the musicians from a string quartet. The musical direction of the project is in hands of the pianist and vocal coach Pedro Beriso who works for the Flemish Opera.
The immersive form of the performance invites the audience to share the space with the performers. The audience is invited to move through the set. The entire performance takes several hours and is constructed of repeating loops, allowing a free flow of the audience through the installation.
Agata Araszkiewicz – co-founder of the feminist association of Polish women in Belgium – wrote an essay on our creation “Unknown, I Live With You”. Read her take on opera, sex and oppression here.