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Mark Morris Dance Group


Hop Co-Commission
Mark Morris Dance Group
and The Silk Road Ensemble

Layla and Majnun

An ancient love story makes a rare Western appearance in this stunning new chamber opera.




“Rigor and sensuality, the dance seems to take wing from the vocalizations.” San Francisco Chronicle

The ancient story of ill-fated lovers Layla and Majnun makes a rare Western appearance in this stunning chamber opera exploring romance, madness and mysticism. Morris’ lyrical choreography shares the stage with superb musicians led by Azerbaijani singers Alim and Fargana Qasimov, masters of the improvisational, searingly emotive mugham vocal style.

With English supertitles

Post-performance discussions with the artists following the evening performances

Please note: latecomer seating is not permitted

View International References to the Story of Layla and Majnun (PDF)

Supported by the Marion and Frederick B. Whittemore ’53, T’54 Distinguished Artists Series Fund, a gift from Claire Foerster and Daniel S. Bernstein 1987, the Howard Gilman 1944 Directorship Fund and Hopkins Center Members.

Funded in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Arts’ Art Works, the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the NEA.

Sponsored by 



The New York Times was enthralled by the dance, sound and visual elements:

“Mr. Morris does not so much tell the Layla-Majnun [love] story as refract it, ritualize it, multiply it. The emphasis is all on emotion.” The singers, Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, seated at the center of the other musicians, sing the roles of Majnun and Layla. Ms. Qasimova’s voice glows gorgeously. The dancers occupy the peripheries of the stage—front, back, and sides…At times the dance idiom is based on that of Asian dervishes, with the arms and upper body holding a formal, side-tilting position while the dancer revolves on the spot—now slowly, now fast, though never for a long time. Elsewhere, inte nse through-the-body gestures tip the torso powerfully from side to side (the dancers stand with legs parted and knees bent), suggesting a maelstrom of emotion.

The San Francisco Chronicle commented on the combined treat for ear and eye:

Do we watch these incomparable musicians? Or do we fix our gaze on the 16 amazing dancers of the Mark Morris Dance Group enacting this tragedy of impossible love in front of the boldly hued and textured backdrop by Howard Hodgkin, all aglow in James F. Ingalls’ lighting? Inevitably, as the 65-minute work progresses, you find yourself immersed in something organic and wonderful.

Intermediate Dance Master Class

Thu • Jan 5 • 5 pm
Straus Dance Studio • $10 • Ages 16+

Pre-Show Talk Layla & Majnun: Crazy in Love

Thu • Jan 5 • 5:30 pm
Hood Downtown • Free

Exhibition: Bahar Behbahani’s Persian Gardens

Jan 5–Mar 12 • Hood Downtown • Free

Press Release
A gem of Central Asian and Islamic music and storytelling makes a rare Western appearance in Layla and Majnun, an enthralling hour-long chamber opera by the Mark Morris Dance Group and The Silk Road Ensemble with “living treasure” singers Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova...

Click on the thumbnail to download full-sized images.
Photo credit (L to R): Production shot of Layla and Majnun, by Susan Millman; Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, flanked by instrumentalists playing tar (left) and kamancheh (right), by Daniel O’Connor; depiction of Layla and Majnun fainting from love upon meeting each other, in Persian miniature, courtesy of the Hermitage Museum; Layla and Majnun production shot by Millman.