"THE MERCHANT OF HARPUT"
A GRAND OPERA IN TWO ACTS
Languages: Western Armenian, Kurdish, Syriac,
Surtitles: Dutch and English
Composer and Conductor: Ardashes Agoshian / Kurdish Translation and Libretto: Kawa Nemir
Armenian translation of libretto and general advisor: Dr. Natali Boghossian
10 Soloists, Choir (60 Choristers) and Orchestra (50 players)
“The Merchant of Harput” is a two-act opera based on Shakespeare’s famous play “The Merchant of Venice”. In the play, Antonio, an antisemitic merchant, takes a loan from the Jewish Shylock to help his friend to court Portia. Antonio can’t repay the loan, and without mercy, Shylock demands a pound of his flesh. The heiress Portia, now the wife of Antonio’s friend, dresses as a lawyer and saves Antonio. The play has been described as a great commentary on the nature of racial interactions. And it is this aspect that has made the play worth adapting for us.
“The Merchant of Harput” is the opera adaptation of the play through cultural translation method. The whole elements of the play will be reinterpreted through a deep perspective of Mesopotamian culture. Shakespeare’s anti-semitic approach will be revived through current Anatolian discourse: brotherhood of people. As a sign of mutual intelligibility of Anatolian cultures, the new opera will be composed in three endangered Anatolian languages: Western Armenian, Kurdish and Syriac. The choice of Harput instead of Venice also is not random. There was also a cosmopolitan city in Anatolia at the beginning of the 20th century and that place had a lot of cultural similarities with Venice in Italy at the time.
From the point of view of musical composition, TMH will bring new blood to the contemporary opera world. Famous Armenian composer Ardashes Agoshian has recently composed the first Kurdish opera “Tosca”. He has thus invented a new form of opera, calling it Impropera (improvisation and opera) a blending of Mesopotamian and western music cultural traditions. He has mixed the elements of traditional Anatolian trabadour music which is based on oral tradition and improvisation, and western classical music based on also improvisation, which has, however, evolved as written tradition. Agoshian will compose the opera with an eclectical music-philosophy by blending the music, languages and their approach to daily lives of these three cultures.
Librettist Kawa Nemir is a Kurdish poet, short story-writer, translator and editor. As editor-in-chief of the Kurdish literary-cultural magazines Jiyana Rewşen en Rewşen-Name during the years 1997-2003, and afterwards as founder of publishing house Bajar, Nemir has made a lasting impression on important Kurdish literary works. He also translated many books and poems from English to Kurdish and from Kurdish into Turkish. In 2019, he publishes his Kurdish translation of Ulysses by James Joyce. Through the Dutch Foundation of Literature, Nemir is since June 2018 the temporary inhabitant of the Amsterdam Vluchtstad appartment in Anne Frank's former home. Nemir studies English language and literature at the Hacettepe University in Ankara and at the University of Istanbul.He is poet, short story-writer, translator and editor. He wrote the libretto of first Kurdish opera “Tosca”. He will write the libretto of TMH and he will rewrite it with collaboration to composer Ardashes Agoshian and Armenian singer and porfessor of English literature Dr. Natali Boğosyan.
Dr. Natali Boghossian is a mezzo-soprano coloratura based in Amsterdam. Drawing from her cross-cultural as well as literary background, she researches connections, new colours, original themes and repertoire for her concerts with special respect for contemporary works. She also attracts attention as a multi-talented singer by also playing the piano on stage. She also wrote a libretto of an Armenian opera: Golden Awakening. It is being composed by Ardashes Agoshian. She will translate TMH to Armenian and she will rewrite it.
TMH is planned to be staged in the second half of 2021 in The Netherlands.