American composer Michael Ellison probes the life of 13th century poet and thinker Jelaladin Rumi (Mevlâna) and his transformation from ordinary cleric to inspired mystic.
"Working together is like sculpting the contour and dimensions of this voice. This part is one of several elements that will make this performance really unique, because without Shams and the challenges he throws at Mevlana there would be no mystic awakening of Mevlâna."
Sculpting the contour and dimensions of his voice
Well, we just arrived in Amsterdam and had the first rehearsal yesterday with VOCAALLAB. There is so much in this piece, and they are getting a lot of it already. Today we have ensemble rehearsal in the morning, and then in afternoon individual sessions with Arnout (Mevlâna) and Gunnar (Shams). Gunnar has a real challenge doing the part of Shams, written for a very high tenor to be sung in Azeri Mugam style. But he has a great timbral range and imagination: working together is like sculpting the contour and dimensions of this voice. This part is one of several elements that will make this performance really unique, because without Shams and the challenges he throws at Mevlâna there would be no mystic awakening of Mevlâna. "If I enter your house (Mevlâna's ego?), I'll break all this, and destroy all that" cries Shams in the fourth tableaux.
Flights of poetic imagery
The integration of Turkish instruments ney and kanun into the ensemble is central to helping create the kind of mystic, sensual counterpart to this vital energy of Shams. And the vocal ensemble, with the sounds and atmosphere they provide are a big part of the piece as it leaps from realistic scenes to flights of poetic imagery.
Turkish perspective on Mevlâna
One reason I had first gone to Turkey was to try and get a Turkish perspective on Mevlâna, known as Rumi in the West. Then it was through director Caroline Petrick that from Istanbul we initially made contact with Guy Coolen, Operadagen Rotterdam, to VOCAALLAB, and then Tessa Joosse, whose video will provide the scenography to help guide the audience through this story about a journey into love.