Magic of an opera performance: premiere of the opera «Sadoqat» by Rustam Abdullaev

Venera Zakirova,

On December 19, 2015 in the State Academic Bolshoi Theater of Opera and Ballet named after Alisher Navoi the first premiere of the opera «Sadoqat» (“Fidelity”) took place. The opera was devoted to the 100th anniversary of the birth of the People’s poet of Uzbekistan Zulfiya. Love story and fidelity of the well-known poets of the XX century Zulfiya Isroilova and Hamid Alimdzhan inspired a famous composer of Uzbekistan Rustam Abdullaev on creation of an opera about the heroes of our time. The plot of the opera occurs in Tashkent in the 1930-1970-ies. Meeting of the main characters, who lived together bright, creatively rich life and their friendship with such poets as Gafur Gulyam and Oybek, as well as hardships endured by Zulfiya after her husband’s death, all of this is a basis of a plot of R. Abdullaev’s work created according to O. Matchon’s libretto under edition of F. Safarov.
The scenic destiny of the opera evolved interestingly. In 1987 R. Abdullaev wrote the opera «Sadoqat», which was supposed to be staged at the Samarkand Opera and Ballet Theater. The small orchestral and choral collectives working at the theater caused the opera’s chamber; lack of big expanded scenes didn’t give the chance to transfer a reversal of feelings and emotions of the heroes, the spirit of that time. The art and musical ideas of the composer which appeared in the years independence influenced his decision to revert to this subject and to create a new version of the opera in the context of spiritual revival of the national heritage.
The composer practically re-wrote the work’s score, retaining only separate subjects and fragments of the initial version. New scenes appeared, which gave to the musical and scenic composition an artistic frame and end, a new orchestral introduction from the first steps introduced the viewer with the atmosphere of the poetic environment of Uzbekistan of the beginning of the last century, as well as a new ending, which opens one of key thoughts of the work – indissoluble link of art with everyday life of the people. According to the composer, “the opera is a result of long-term hard work in the field of dramatic art, musical performances both solo, and ensemble, which considerably enriched the score”. Some accents in the ideological concepts of the work were shifted according to the trends of modern society. In general the author concentrated all attention in the opera round the image of Zulfiya, who embodied the symbol of Uzbek mother devoted to the country, family and favorite work.
As a result the opera «Sadoqat» got a new life in the composition of absolutely different scale, character and substantial content. It is a lyric-dramatic work, in which poetic images of the main characters intertwine with their spiritual experiences. In integral dramaturgy, contrasting diversified episodes became a basis of the two-act opera in five scenes.
Thus in the opera the bright talent of the opera playwright and composer Rustam Abdullaev was revealed. He applied a new type of dramatic art in the opera, in which conflict is not showing of a traditional triangle of the heroes and their collision, but in internal psychological fight of a person against destiny. This dramaturgy is supported by the set design, which is skillfully developed by the author of a new version of the libretto a Production Director of the performance – the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, the winner of the State Award of Uzbekistan – Firudin Safarov. In the opera the director’s receptions strengthening psychological impact on the audience were used, it is, in particular, a performance of actors on the scene and in the auditorium. So, Zulfiya repeatedly goes down from the stage to the auditorium, performing touching monologues, as if sharing with the audience his intimate thoughts and feelings. The similar impressive director’s reception was used in the final, when the main character finally leaves the stage, saying goodbye to friends.
Additionally, the decoration of the opera is a wonderful music by R. Abdullaev. It is a musical revelation of the composer filled with his sincerity, talent and inspiration. The orchestral introduction sounds poetically and penetrated with happiness, creative impulse creeping poets, and light plans for the future. The subjects sounding in the introduction are unusually melodious and personify a symbol of eternal love and fidelity of heroes, their aspiration for life, love for the country and the people. One of such leitmotif becomes love of Zulfiya and Hamid Alimdzhan, being a basis of their monologues and duets, and the second is the theme of fidelity, which being transformed into a majestic and powerful message to all mankind is performed in the final of the opera by soloists, chorus and orchestra in full force.
Bright festive and drama images are surprisingly organic in the opera. The fourth scene, in such way, became psychologically intense, in which the main character has overcome the most difficult tests of destiny. News of the husband’s death, awareness of inevitability of separation generate in Zulfiya’s soul desire to withstand, and at any cost to raise and educate the children. The internal protest haunts the poetess, due to which the dramatic action gains strength and leads to emotional shock: to visions overcoming her. Dramatic monologue of Zulfiya, who is seized by the image of Hamid pursuing her inflamed imagination, sounds against the background of the music representing a requiem mass, which performers are dressed in black attire. Contrast comparison of the part of many-voiced chorus “in black” and a lonely voice of the heroine, powerless in front of forces of destiny, is the culmination of the action exerting indelible impression upon the viewer.
Doubtless success of the composer is the scene from national life, namely – the scene of the spring holiday Navruz accompanied by traditional for this day songs, dances, games, theatrical performances of maskharabozes, kyzykchys and rope-walkers. Abdullaev repeatedly addressed to the theme of celebration of Navruz also in instrumental compositions, for example, in the Second piano concert “Navruz Tunes” (1989). As a result, the composer created an “instrumental theater” with piano works and concert, which traditions received then a full-fledged scenic embodiment in the opera «Sadoqat».
The cast of the opera presented by mainly young talented singers wins the audience. Malika Normatova and Barno Ismatullayeva were approved for the role of the main character, each of which presented their own Zulfiya: soft and restrained in Normatova’s interpretation and vigorous, emotional performed by Ismatullayeva, who by the strong and sonorous timbre of the voice strengthened dramatic nature and internal tension in culmination parts of the opera. As a result two various interpretations of the image of the poetess were presented to the viewer, each of which is in own way convincing and interesting.
Scenic embodiment of Hamid Alimdzhan’s image is sincerely-emotional in performance by Rustam Alimardanov, whose vocal part abounds with expressive intonations full of love and tenderness to Zulfiya that are fully disclosed in the singer’s interpretation. The duet of the main characters of the opera after their acquaintance during Navruz holiday is also successful. Inspirational and vitally truthful image of people in love is the most touching episode of the opera.
Images of friends of Zulfiya and Alimdzhan – poets Gafur Gulyam performed by Rahim Mirzakamalov and Oybek in Dzhabrail Idrisov’s interpretation are artistically convincing. Both actors are young, but already rather skilled singers. They are winners of international and republican competitions, repeatedly shined on the stage of the theater in leading parties of domestic and foreign operas. Creativity of Gafur Gulyam and Oybek is of great importance for the Uzbek literature and culture as a source of spiritual education and self-development. Mirzakamalov (Gafur Gulyam) and Idrisov (Oybek) so got used to the images of their heroes, that even became as if outwardly looked liked the poets. That is why the perception of all scenes with their participation reminded effect of presence of real heroes. The image of a bakhshi performed by a venerable opera singer Nurmakhmat Mukhamedov is original and colorful. His hero is a generalized character of a musician – singer and instrumentalist of traditional musical culture of the people of Central Asia. N. Mukhamedov managed to represent the hero in such way, that he organically entered in the urban poetic environment and enriched the scenic action with his performance.
Long-term experience of R. Abdullaev in the field of vocal music – songs and romances was reflected in solo and ensemble scenes of the «Sadoqat». The important dramaturgic role in the opera is also assigned to the choruses singing about the scenes of the spring holiday, further exacerbating dramatic intensity in the scene of Requiem (the fourth scene). The talent of the composer-instrumentalist – the author of a number of compositions, both for a big symphonic orchestra, and for chamber structures and instrumental pieces has been brightly revealed. All this was reflected in orchestral fabric of the opera, which is notable for, on the one hand, rich, picturesque colors, and on the other, transparent texture shading monologues of the heroes. In culmination sections the orchestra is a full-fledged participant of the action, carrying a big emotional and expressive load, an important role in which belongs to his musical director and conductor the Honored Artist of Uzbekistan Fazliddin Yakubzhanov.
We should also note perfectly executed scenery to the opera, which visually enriches the work. It is, for example, a scene in library, where high bookshelves literally absorb sophisticated Zulfiya, and festive celebrations among blossoming sunlit trees, as well as fiery flashes symbolizing military operations, etc. It is necessary to tell that the stage production team carried out tremendous work, as a result of which, the performance has turned out impressive and original. Together with the composer the Screenwriter and Production Director F. Safarov, as well as Musical Director and Conductor the Honored Artist of Uzbekistan F. Yakubzhanov, Chief Chorus Master – the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan S. Shadmanov and Chorus Master N. Kupriyanov, Art Director the Honored worker of culture of Uzbekistan Z. Botirov, Costume Designer L. Palvanova, Choreographer the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan K. Muminov took also part in the scenic embodiment of the opera «Sadoqat». As a result, this team of professionals of musical and theatrical arts has embodied the composer’s plan on the stage, and the opera «Sadoqat» found success at the audience, taking its rightful place among the best global operas, which production carried out at the theater of the capital.

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