US company’s opera on Benazir Bhutto’s life to debut next year


NEW YORK(APP): A noted American opera company is to produce an opera on the life and legacy of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister of Pakistan, who was assassinated in 2007, according to a media report.

Created by Mohammed Fairouz, an eminent Emirati-American composer, and Mohammed Hanif, an award-winning Pakistani novelist, “Bhutto” will premier in Pittsburgh, a city in US state of Pennsylvania, next year.

“The opera focuses on Benazir Bhutto’s extraordinary life and the influences upon her, and the effect that her stand for women and their ability to lead has had on the world stage,” Pittsburgh Opera General Director Christopher Hahn was quoted as saying by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Fairouz, 30, a rising star in the opera world, was described by The New York Times as “an important new artistic voice” and by BBC as “one of the most talented composers of his generation.”

The Post-Gazette reported early in 2016 that Pittsburgh Opera had co-commissioned the opera about the life of Benazir Bhutto intended to premiere in 2018. The premiere was quietly pushed back for financial and artistic reasons; it is now set to debut in the 2019-20 season.

On Nov 13, the report said, the artistic minds behind the new work visited Pittsburgh to workshop the opera with full orchestra and chorus in the opera headquarters, an essential step in the creation of a production and a chance to display the work to potential donors to shore up financial support.

Musicians, lead singers and soloists performed each act in its entirety, occasionally pausing briefly to talk through a passage, it said. A panel that included Pittsburgh Opera’s general director Hahn, composer Fairouz and librettist Hanif and others offered notes during intermission breaks.

Composer Fairouz was quoted by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as saying that he began thinking about the Bhutto story six years ago.

“Everybody has an opinion about Bhutto,” Fairouz said. “It’s often very personal, very passionate. As a composer you feel compelled to do something — and then you’re like an animal sniffing at truffles trying to uncover why it’s interesting,” he said.

“When you write an opera, you have to start with research to find out why the story or idea compels you so much.”

On his part, Hanif said, “I knew nothing about opera of classical music. I was, of course, familiar with Bhutto as I grew up living in that reality. Growing up, you either loved them or hated them…

“As soon as [Mohammed Fairouz] suggested Bhutto as an opera I said yes. It’s a bizarre story, really over the top for a novel. The father was hung, one brother poisoned, one brother shot … It’s a perfect fit. Really, each family member could have their own opera.”

Hanif pointed out that current members of the Bhutto family are still active in Pakistani politics.

“We’re telling a story,” Hanif said. “It’s a family story that centers on power. It’s not intended to be divisive, but it’s political, so of course it will be. But that’s not a bad thing.”


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