Leyly & Majnun

Leyly & Majnun, produced by Baku Marionette Theatre (Azerbiajan) is an exquisite marionette opera written by Uzeyir Hajibeyli, one of the great Azerbaijani composers, and directed by Tarlan Gorchu. It sources Western and Eastern musical traditions. Its story is based on a narrative poem written by Muhammad Fuzuli in the 16th century, itself based on a legend centuries older. The story echoes Romeo and Juliette, an ageless tale.

The small marionettes are gorgeous, elaborately designed by Tengiz Khalvashi. The music, recorded by two musicians and singers, is lovely and varied, including even something like a march, but most notably graced by a haunting solo female voice, nearly wailing in, I assume, Azerbaijani. 

The seven puppeteers, in black, are part of the presentation. They sometimes move with slow deliberacy. To call this production a show is to trivialize it - it’s a ritual.
The screens upstage are beautiful as well, and the play ends with a projection of cuneiform on stone. The mystery of this text, presented without explanation, relieves us of the responsibility to understand the myth rationally. Leyly & Majnun is mystical theater, mysterious and universal.

- Steve Capra

September 2019

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