Pittsburgh Opera continues its 76th season with a new production of young Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz’s SUMEIDA’S SONG, starring the company’s Resident Artists

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January 27, 2015




Pittsburgh Opera presents the Pittsburgh premiere of Mohammed Fairouz’s gripping family drama SUMEIDA’S SONG

Composer Fairouz to be in attendance

              Mohammed Fairouz’s opera SUMEIDA’S SONG,

                        based on Tawfiq al-Hakim’s play Song of Death

Where:           Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters

2425 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh’s Strip District


When:             Saturday, February 21, 8:00 p.m.  Tuesday, February 24, 7:00 p.m.

Friday, February 27, 7:30 p.m.*  Sunday, March 1, 2:00 p.m.


Run Time:      1 hour, with no intermission


Language:     Sung in English with English and Arabic texts projected above the stage


Tickets:          Start at $40 for all performances. Capacity is limited.

Call 412-456-6666 for more information or visit pittsburghopera.org
Note:              * 7:30 is the new start time for our Friday performances.



Related                 Opera Up Close; Brown Bag concert; WQED Preview;

Events:           Meet the Artists; Audio Description. See page 5 of this release.


Pittsburgh, PA… Pittsburgh Opera continues its 76th season with a new production of young Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz’s SUMEIDA’S SONG, starring the company’s Resident Artists. The fourth production of the 2014-15 Pittsburgh Opera season, SUMEIDA’S SONG is on stage at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters February 21, 24, 27 and March 1. Tickets start at $40.
Based on the play Song of Death by prolific and influential Egyptian playwright Tawfiq al-Hakim, SUMEIDA’S SONG is 60 minutes of gripping family drama coming from the tragic collision of traditional and modern values in a peasant village in Upper Egypt. In the story, Alwan’s mother Asakir has waited 17 years to take vengeance on Alwan’s father’s murderer, in a long-standing blood feud. Her world falls apart when Alwan, returning to his village from Cairo with plans to bring education and clean water, declares that he will not kill anyone. Hysterical at his refusal, Alwan’s mother ultimately charges his cousin Sumeida with avenging the family name, and he sings a traditional song as a signal. The SUMEIDA’S SONG score blends in spiraling dance rhythms, special tunings, and plaintive melodic writing that recall Mohammed Fairouz’s Arabic heritage.
Pittsburgh Opera’s Resident Artists again take the starring roles in the second opera of the season that is produced especially for the singers and directors in the company’s acclaimed training program. Laurel Semerdjian portrays Asakir, and Adelaide Boedecker is her sister Mabrouka, while Alex DeSocio is Alwan, and Adam Bonanni is Sumeida.


Tickets to SUMEIDA’S SONG start at $40, with all performances at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters, in the Strip District. For additional information, videos, photos, cast biographies, and the full story of SUMEIDA’S SONG, visit www.pittsburghopera.org. To purchase tickets, call 412-456-6666 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org.


Three facts about SUMEIDA’S SONG

  1. SUMEIDA’S SONG was composed when Mohammed Fairouz was just 22 years old. Born in 1985, Mr. Fairouz told WQED’s Jim Cunningham in a recent interview that he wrote his first complete piece of music at age 7.  Hear the full interview here.


  1. SUMEIDA’S SONG had its world premiere in January 2013 and has been performed in New York City and Boston since then. Pittsburgh Opera will present a new production of the opera created especially for the environs of Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters.
  2. SUMEIDA’S SONG is scored for a small orchestra that includes a specially-tuned keyboard, periodic tuning adjustments for other instruments, and the traditional Middle Eastern darabukka, a goblet-shaped drum.

The story, in brief
Asakir and Mabrouka, two Upper-Egyptian peasant women of the Azizi family, sit in silence until they hear a train’s whistle. Mabrouka reassures the anxious Asakir, who wonders whether her son Alwan is on the train. Asakir hopes that the identity of her son has not been revealed to the rest of the village – they have been told that Alwan drowned in the well when he was small, but Asakir doubts that the Tahawis, a family with whom the Azizis have an ancient blood-feud, really believe that Alwan is dead.

Asakir desperately awaits her son’s return to restore the honor of the Azizis, 17 years after the Tahawis killed Alwan’s father. She has instructed her nephew, Sumeida, to sing as a sign that his cousin Alwan is on the train.

(Seventeen years ago, Mabrouka smuggled Alwan away to Cairo and left him with a relative who was instructed to raise the boy as a butcher “so that he may use a knife well.” Alwan, however, runs away from the butcher shop to become a student at Azhar University and attains the rank of Sheikh.)

When the next whistle is heard announcing the departure of the train from the station, Asakir and Mabrouka rejoice because Alwan will surely avenge his father’s death. Finally, Sumeida’s song is heard, and Asakir proclaims, “from now, oh, Suweilam Tahawi, your hours are numbered!”

Alwan arrives safely, and Asakir, now alone with her son, quickly dispenses with pleasantries and brings out an item that she has kept for 17 years: it is the saddlebag in which his father’s dismembered body was brought to her, carried on his donkey. Finally, she presents her son with the murder weapon, a knife with blood and rust on it.

After an initial silence, Alwan gravely asks who is responsible for this crime. Asakir answers without hesitation that it is Suweilam Tahawi. When he asks her how she knows this, she explains that the whole village knows. Alwan asks more questions, but Asakir repeatedly resorts to the refrain, “God knows best.” Alwan then tells his mother that he has not come to kill, but to tell the villagers that he wishes to bring them a better life, where they have access to education, a better quality of life, and clean water.

Asakir dismisses her son’s “bookish talk” and tells him to prepare himself to avenge his father’s death. Alwan tells his mother in no uncertain terms that he will not kill. Going out of her mind, Asakir convulsively repeats “seventeen years…the blood of your father…” Alwan tries vainly to reason with her. She disowns her son and orders him out of her house. She curses him, and, realizing the futility of his position, Alwan says that he will return to the train station and await her in Cairo, where he will pray that her agitated soul be calmed.

Now alone, Asakir sits motionless, when Sumeida appears. Asakir tells her nephew that Alwan has fled from taking revenge for his father. She then begins a long lament, saying that the disgrace is unbearable, as the villagers will torment her and the “belly that brought forth such a son,” striking herself with violent blows. Sumeida tries to keep her from harming herself when she asks Sumeida to bring her the murder weapon, so that she can
rip open her belly. Sumeida tells her that she has gone mad. She challenges him with “Sumeida, are you a man?” and tells him to plunge the knife into Alwan’s chest. Sumeida at first protests, but takes the knife, and tells her that she will hear his voice raised in song if Alwan’s killing is brought about.

Mabrouka comes back, and Asakir tells her that Alwan has cowered from his mission to kill his father’s murderer, and so has died. Mabrouka declares that this is a disgrace for the Azizis, but Asakir tells her that Alwan will soon be buried in the ground. Not understanding, Mabrouka asks where Sumeida has gone, and, when Asakir reveals that she has sent Sumeida to catch up with Alwan, Mabrouka begs her to give up her plan for revenge. The women anxiously await the sound of the train whistle. Mabrouka becomes more and more frightened and confused. Mabrouka then hears Sumeida’s singing and, terrified by her sister’s state, she asks desperately what is happening.

Sumeida’s song is heard, this time heralding the death of Alwan. Asakir utters the words: “my son,” and collapses.

Tickets to SUMEIDA’S SONG start at $40, with all performances at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters, 2425 Liberty Avenue, in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. For additional information, videos, photos, musical samples, cast biographies, and the full story of SUMEIDA’S SONG, visit www.pittsburghopera.org. To purchase tickets, call 412-456-6666 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org.

The 2014-15 Pittsburgh Opera season is generously supported by PNC.
WQED-FM is Season Media Sponsor.
Project support for SUMEIDA’S SONG is provided by The Filstrup Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Alice M. Ditson Foundation.

Cast and Artistic Team (cast is listed in order of vocal appearance)


Mabrouka                                                 Adelaide Boedecker *

Asakir                                                       Laurel Semerdjian *

Sumeida                                                   Adam Bonanni *

Alwan                                                        Alex DeSocio *
Conductor                                                 Glenn Lewis

Director                                                     Jennifer Williams *

Set Designer                                             Julia Nourin-Merat

Costume Designer                                   Antonia West

Lighting Designer                                      Todd Nonn

Hair & Makeup Designer                          Nicole Pagano

Director of Musical Studies                      Mark Trawka

Associate Coach/Pianist                          James Lesniak


+    Pittsburgh Opera debut

*     Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist

**   Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist alumni

Tickets and Group Discounts

Tickets for all performances of SUMEIDA’S SONG start at $40. Group discounts are available. For tickets, call (412) 456-6666 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org. For discounted group tickets (6 or more), contact Randy Adams at 412-281-0912, x 213.


Related Events

Brown Bag Concert, “Love Songs, Old and New”
Saturday, February 14 – 12:00 p.m.

George R. White Opera Studio, Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters (2425 Liberty Avenue)

At the February Brown Bag concert, the Resident Artists celebrate love with selections from opera and musical theater. These casual, one-hour concerts feature our Resident Artists in the George R. White Opera Studio at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters. Guests can meet the performers after the concert. Free and open to everyone; no RSVP required. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. For more information, call (412) 281-0912 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org


SUMEIDA’S SONG Previews on WQED-FM 89.3 and WQED.ORG

Saturday, February 14 – 12:30 p.m.; Friday, February 20 – 7:00 p.m.

Hosted by WQED’s Stephen Baum and Anna Singer, and broadcast over the airwaves as well as the WQED website, the SUMEIDA’S SONG preview gives listeners an engaging introduction to the singers, music and story of the opera. For more information, visit www.pittsburghopera.org.


Opera Up Close: SUMEIDA’S SONG, with special guest Mohammed Fairouz

Sunday, February 15 – 2:00 p.m.

George R. White Opera Studio, Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters (2425 Liberty Ave.) Opera Up Close: SUMEIDA’S SONG includes an in-depth analysis of the opera, with composer Mohammed Fairouz, Resident Artist stage director Jennifer Williams, and other directors and artists from the production. Admission is $5; free to members of FRIENDS of Pittsburgh Opera and $50+ donors. For more information, call (412) 281-0912 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org.


Cultural Touchstones at all performances of SUMEIDA’S SONG
February 21 – March 1, before and during performances

Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters

SUMEIDA’S SONG ticketholders are invited to view artworks by regional artist Hoda Moustapha, take in prose, poetry and art from the Arab-American publication Mizna, and view traditional and modern Middle Eastern garments. Additionally, the SUMEIDA’S SONG texts above the stage will be displayed in English and Arabic.


Audio Description: SUMEIDA’S SONG
Tuesday, February 24

Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters

Ticketholders with visual impairments are invited to use Pittsburgh Opera’s Audio
Description service at our Tuesday performances. Trained volunteers describe the scenery, costumes, and stage action via headphones. Those wishing to use Audio Description should reserve seats to the Tuesday, February 24 performance: contact Randy Adams at 412-281-0912, ext. 213 or [email protected]. Braille and large-print programs are also available.


Meet the Artists of SUMEIDA’S SONG

Tuesday, February 24

Immediately following the opera, in the performance space

Ticketholders for the Tuesday, February 24 performance of SUMEIDA’S SONG are invited to gather in the performance space immediately following the performance for interviews with General Director Christopher Hahn and the stars of the opera. This event is free to all Tuesday performance ticketholders.


Pittsburgh Opera celebrates its 76th season in 2014-15. Established by five intrepid women in 1939, Pittsburgh Opera is viewed as one of the most vibrant opera organizations in the U.S., with a rich artistic tradition, outstanding educational programs, an acclaimed artist training program, and a progressive outlook toward the future. Its green initiative culminated in LEED® Silver certification for its Strip District headquarters, and its capacity as a true community partner has increased significantly under General Director Christopher Hahn’s leadership.

2014-15 Season

GRAND & GLORIOUS •• October 18, 2014
OTELLO •• November 8 – 16, 2014

SUMEIDA’S SONG •• January 24 – February 1, 2015

SECOND STAGE PROJECT: SUMEIDA’S SONG •• February 21 – March 1, 2015
CARMEN •• March 21 – 29, 2015

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