A solo women's opera to keep this art alive in Iran

They can only perform before a female audience and face countless restrictions, but an Iranian group of female singers and dancers does not give up on their goal of making the art of opera live in ancient Persia.

Women are forbidden to sing or dance in public before men in Iran since the triumph of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which imposed a series of moral codes in the country that supposed flagrant limitations on art and women.

Despite the difficulties, many artists courageously chose to continue working in Iran and train new generations in classical music and ballet, disciplines rejected as a Western influence by the Iranian theocracy, although their works are only for women and for women.

"After these social changes, the song, especially the classic one, was disappearing, but with the effort that we made we were able to fan the light of that candle that was going out," said the Iranian soprano Shahla Milaní.

This singer, who is currently a teacher in the music workshop school and in the university, decided to form a singing group called "Avaze Melal" (The Choir of Nations) when about twenty years ago the authorities gave permission to Women to dedicate themselves to music.

"Our greatest achievement has been to familiarize people with the word opera and with the word ballet, none of our efforts in these twenty years has been in vain," he said.

Although he acknowledged that his decision to stay in Iran involved a "sacrifice" and that it would have been easier to work in Europe, as many colleagues did, Milaní felt that his "responsibility was to educate Iranian singers and, at the same time, educate the public "

A little over two years ago, Milaní decided to go beyond singing. With choreographer Hayedeh Kishipour, who has her own female dance ensemble, they put on the operetta "Arshin Mal Alan", by the Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov.

A novelty in the Iranian art scene, which was followed by the famous opera "Carmen" by Georges Bizet, who performed for the second time in Tehran this month, coinciding with International Women's Day.

The Vahdat room, in the heart of the Iranian capital, was filled that day with women, who were able to enjoy the opera but not take photos or videos, being cell phones confiscated at the entrance, since having permission only to act with and before women, artists must take a series of precautions.

There can not be images of them singing or dancing, nor with the dress of the opera. In fact, in the promotional brochure all appeared veiled, but then came to the scene with bare hair and arms.

A dress, in the case of "Carmen" very flamenco, that the artists pay out of their own pocket since the music of women in Iran does not have sponsors, lamented the soprano Milaní, who highlighted as a great obstacle the selection of voices and its adaptation to female singers.

For one of the male roles of "Carmen" they chose, for example, a mezzo-soprano, to give it a somewhat more serious tone by not being able to count on a tenor or a bass. A problem that also extends to the dancers.

"We have many limitations because as men can not see us dancing, we are forced to use women for male characters and their movements and character are difficult to represent by a dancer," explained stage director and choreographer Hayedeh Kishipour.

The choreographer, who began to integrate the ballet little by little in her performances of Iranian folkloric dance three decades ago, to "camouflage", also lamented that they could not decorate the scene due to the expense involved.

They can only act in two rooms in Tehran and also, as reported by Kishipour, they only offer the 2 o'clock schedule, which is "the dead time of a room".

"We must quickly fix everything because, as we are all women, we can not match men, and we do not have the right to advertise," added the choreographer, who years ago was censored a waltz from Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" because the dancers were spinning.

Although they do not cover the expenses of the works, they endure "all those problems to keep this culture alive and for the love of the profession," Kishipour remarked.

For Milaní, these limitations feed their "imagination" and although sometimes the discouragement spreads and they think that it is "the last time" that a scene is staged, they always end up opting to "keep working", as it shows that they already have new ones in mind Projects.


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