This coffeehouse opera is based on 16th and 17th century Turkish and Italian sources, conceived and composed by NEC alumnus Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol '04 DMA, with the coffeehouse opera concept and storyteller script by Robert Labaree.
A cast of eleven musicians, singers, and actors tells the story of the famous Sümbül, an African slave who was the chief Black Eunuch in charge of the harem of the Ottoman sultan in the 17th century. This is a widely-circulated Mediterranean tale of love and jealousy across racial boundaries, scaled to the intimate and informal setting of a coffee house in the polyglot environment of Constantinople / Istanbul in Sümbül's day. A traditional Ottoman storyteller (meddah hayali), speaking mainly in English, is supported by instrumental music, improvisation, and singing in Turkish and Italian by an ensemble of specialists in European early music and in Turkish music. Together, the ensemble retells this historical legend of love and jealousy, intensified by the crossing of boundaries between the free and the enslaved, white and black, Muslim and non-Muslim.
MEDDAH HAYALI [Max Sklar, a speaking role]: a traditional Ottoman coffeehouse storyteller
SÜMBÜL AĞA [Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol, tenor]: an aged, retired chief black eunuch of the Ottoman court
SUZAN [Camila Parias, soprano]: a European slave girl who becomes the wife of Sümbül
FRENK MUSTAFA [Michael Barrett, baritone]: Sümbül’s aide, a former European slave
SAADET [Burcu Güleç, contralto]: Suzan’s maid, a Turkish village woman trained in the Ottoman palace
Michael Barrett, lute, recorders
Beth Bahia Cohen, kemane (spike fiddle), violin, çiftetelli (octave violin)
Burcu Güleç, kaşık (wooden spoons), parmak zili (finger cymbals), castanets
Robert Labaree, çeng (Ottoman harp)
Carol Lewis, gamba
Steven Lundahl, sackbut, trumpet, recorders
Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol, ud (short-necked lute), ney (cane flute), zurna (double reed pipe)
Dan Stillman, sackbut, trumpet, dulcian
George Lernis and Bertram Lehman, percussion
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