“Song of the North,” a visually stunning cinematic-style shadow play for all ages, will have its world premiere February 10-13 at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris and its U.S. premiere March 5-12 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater with educational shows March 7, 8 and 11. Created, designed and directed by Hamid Rahmanyan, a filmmaker and visual artist who won a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship, is inspired by the 10th-century Persian epic “Shahnameh” (The Book of Kings). It tells the story of Manijeh, a heroine from ancient Persia, who uses her strengths and talents to reconcile the warring kingdoms of Iran and Turan and to rescue her beloved Bijan from a perilous situation she itself created. This will be the first ever puppet theater production on BAM’s Harvey Stage.
The production is a live performance combining the manual art of shadow theater and projected animation. It employs a cast of 500 handmade puppets and an ensemble of nine actors and puppeteers. The graphics are inspired by the visual culture of the Persian lands, with influences from miniature paintings, stone carvings and engravings. The performers’ choreography adapts Persian posturing and there’s a bright, bold soundtrack by composer Ramin Torkian and singer Azam Ali. The storytelling is modern, implementing cinematic tricks such as cuts, zooms, tilts, pans, and tracking shots. Audiences watch the entire show projected onto a 15′ x 30′ screen, giving them the feeling of being immersed in a live animated adventure.
The plot of “Song of the North” follows an Iranian knight, Bijan, who crosses the border to Turan – Iran’s sworn enemy – to win laurels in a tournament. There he falls madly in love with Princess Manijeh of Turan, the most beautiful girl in all the North, who is also a heroine with mystical powers. As the tournament draws to a close, Manijeh bends over her desperate love and sings an enchanted melody, putting her to sleep. Bijan wakes up inside the Turanian castle with Manijeh by his side. They innocently enjoy their time together until her father, the king of Turan, learns of the foreign intruder’s presence. Angered, King Afrasayb had Bijan thrown into a well and stripped his daughter of her titles and property.
Eventually, Manijeh sings a magical melody that puts the king’s army to sleep, allowing Bijan to be rescued by the great hero Rostam. The three of them escape safely to Iran, where Manijeh is praised for her strength and determination and the two lovers become commanders of the Immortal Guard. The tale challenges conventional Eurocentric worldviews of art and storytelling and celebrates a female figure whose strength and perseverance have made her a beloved heroine of Iran. Hamid Rahmanyan writes: “The fact that this particular story is about a strong Iranian woman and that the writer created her 1000 years ago surprises many viewers and gives me the satisfaction of contributing to the global cultural fabric in a way more inclusive.”
“Song of the North” is created, designed and produced by Hamid Rahmanyanwritten by Hamid Rahmanyan and Melissa Hibbard, and produced by Melissa Hibbard. The original music is by Ramin Torkian. The singer is Azam Ali.
Performances in Paris at the Musée du quai Branly, Théâtre Claude Lévi-Strauss, 37 Quai Jacques Chirac, 75007 Paris, are from February 9 to 13: Thursday & Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday & Sunday at 3:00 p.m. & 6:00 p.m. PM. Admission is €20.00 – €15.00. To buy tickets: https://quaibranly.tickeasy.com/fr-FR/home. For the press performance/dress rehearsal on February 9 at 8:00 p.m., contact [email protected] and [email protected]. Performance webpage: https://bit.ly/3seRz73
Performances at BAM Strong Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217, will be on Sunday, March 5 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, March 12 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets cost $15, $20 and $25 and are available at: https://www.bam.org/song-of-the-north.