Tehran’s Vahdat Hall is alive with the sound of music. Literally.
A groundbreaking theater troupe in Tehran, known for recently performing the first opera in Iran in over three decades, is once again making history. The Tehran Opera Ensemble, directed by Hadi Rosat, has mounted a Persian-language adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 musical, The Sound of Music, the first time an Iranian version of an American musical has been performed in the Islamic Republic.
The Sound of Music, which in 1965 was made into an immensely famous Academy Award-winning film directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, tells the story of the Trapp Family Singers and their flight from Nazi-occupied Austria in the late 1930s.
After a year of preparation and rehearsal, the new version, adapted for the Iranian stage by Rosat and entitled Tears and Smiles in Persian, is currently being performed at Vahdat Hall, Tehran’s magnificent opera house, which was built in 1967 and known before the revolution as Rudaki Hall, so named for a renowned medieval Persian poet. The ensemble performed Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi at the same venue this past March to great acclaim. The latest production is set to be showcased during Iran’s prestigious Fajr Festival in January 2014.
The vision for the Tehran Opera Ensemble is clear. Producer Ali Mirmohammadi told Iran's PressTV, “The opera ensemble is trying to open new path in the art of this country so that we can make use of the renowned Western works, whilst our audience is not familiar with these works. to bring works that have become nostalgic for people and are historic pieces and familiarize people with them.”
Ahmed Shihab-Eldin of the Huffington Post reports that, “despite Western sanctions, the art scene in Iran is thriving and theater festivals continue to be held every year.”
Actor Alireza Nasehi sees The Sound of Music as just the beginning of what he hopes will be a continuing trend in Iranian theater. “I think this is a new happening. The real thing is a musical going on stage for the first time,” he says. “I hope this will continue and other famous works will be acted out here.”
PressTV notes that traditional performances of the musical ”usually enjoys a complete orchestra but as this concept is still new in Iran, they started off with a smaller team.”
“Because of the lack of time and sponsors, while we would needed an orchestra of at least 90 musicians, I’ve arranged this piece for a piano and a string quintet,” says Bardia Kiaras, the theater troupe’s musical director and conductor. “The group has good singers and I’m pleased that this is happening in our dear country.”
The ensemble’s producers are scrambling to add more dates in the upcoming weeks, as tickets are already sold out for all currently scheduled performances. Who knew Iranian audiences would be so smitten with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens? (Actually, their fondness for cream colored ponies, crisp apple strudels, doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles is more surprising.)
Below is a PressTV report on the production by Pedram Khodadadi, along with more photos of the performance:
Originally posted at Muftah.