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Abraham in Flames (opera)

Abraham in Flames (opera)

Residency and Workshop performances of Abraham in Flames


September 20, 2017ABOUT Abraham in Flames video

Posted by: Niloufar Talebi

Watch what inspired us to create Abraham in Flames. 

5 years in the making, Abraham in Flames opera takes off this fall as the entire creative team gathers at the Wilsey Center for Opera in San Francisco with workshop performances of the first half of the opera on October 3, 2017 at 7:30pm, and October 4 at 1:00pm (educational) and 7:30pm. This 35-min performance that will be followed by a brief Q&A with the creators. 

Abraham in Flames is a new opera by creator/writer Niloufar Talebi, composer Aleksandra Vrebalov, and director Roy Rallo. The opera is inspired by Talebi’s coming of age in Tehran around the iconic Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou during his presence in her parents’ literary salons, the staggering imagery in Shamlou’s life and poetry, the agony and final commitment of Jesus depicted in paintings of the Garden of Gethsemane, Trials by Fire, and the Tree of Life. Abraham in Flames is written for the Young Women’s Choral Projects of San Francisco, soloists including Merola Opera Program singers, and musical ensemble featuring The Living Earth Show. Abraham in Flames is about the history of the love we receive and the immeasurable impact of artistic mentors in our journey to spiritual becoming and quest for our truth. 

Early Bird Tix $20 General / $15 under 18: abrahaminflames.bpt.me/ 
Day of Tix: $25 General / $15 under 18.
Wilsey Center for Opera
at 401 Van Ness Ave., 4th floor Education Studio 
San Francisco, CA


August 12, 2017: Workshop Residency at the Wilsey Center for Opera Fall 2017

Posted by: Niloufar Talebi

We are delighted to be workshopping the first half of the opera at the Wilsey Center for Opera in San Francisco during a 5-day residency from September 30-October 4, 2017. Creator/Librettist Niloufar Talebi, composer Aleksandra Vrebalov, and director Roy Rallo will be joined by the Young Women’s Choral Projects of San Francisco, five soloists, and ensemble of musicians featuring The Living Earth Show lead by maestro Ming Luke to discover and workshop the work. There will be 3 public performances on October 3 & 4. Stay tuned for casting announcement and tickets information soon! 

June 22, 2017: Sneak preview at the SF International Arts Festival

Posted by: Niloufar Talebi

On May 31, we presented a libretto reading and excerpts of Aleksandra Vrebalov’s exciting new music for Abraham in Flames to a packed and mixed audience (of opera lovers and newbies, of Shamlou lovers and those new to him) at the SF International Arts Festival

Mezzo-soprano Jasmine Johnson sings POET.

John Elam on piano

Sneak preview presentation by Niloufar Talebi

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Inspired by Iranian poet, Ahmad Shamlou, Abraham in Flames is a new opera about the passage of art from one generation to next, conceived/created and written by me with composer Aleksandra Vrebalov and director Roy Rallo.

The completed opera is a 70-minute work written for Young Women's Choral Projects, Merola Opera Program soloists, and musical ensemble including the Living Earth Show. The first 35 min. of the opera will be workshopped hosted by the SF International Arts Festival in Sept-Oct 2017. The completed work will premiere in 2018/2019.

Nominated for the Nobel Prize, Shamlou (1925-2000) is among the most celebrated figures of Iranian literature. He surmounted a bleak childhood to pioneer a modernist revolution. His poems allude to classical Persian literature, but they are also heirs of Rimbaud, Lorca, Dante, Shakespeare, and the world literature he translated and drew upon to create a cultural revolution. Abraham in Flames is the title of one of his seminal books, a biblical metaphor for the purity of truth-seekers, which we have adapted in turn to celebrate the beauty of risk-takers.

I knew Shamlou from his participation in my parents’ literary salons after the 1979 revolution when Iran was besieged in martial law, war, and executions. As a teenager, I found myself surrounded by inspired poets, their papers stained with food as they listened to Rachmaninov blaring from our gramophone. Their desire to be transported by music conquered good judgment, risking sudden raids by Islamic Police. Shamlou handed me many books: in my 13th year it was One Hundred Years of Solitude. Later, during his US lecture tour when he made time to visit me, it was The Master and Margarita. The company I was privileged to keep shaped my future, still informing me as an artist.

That Western audiences don’t know Shamlou’s works is due to the difficulty of translating his work, lack of state funds from Iran, etc. I won a 2014 NEA Translation fellowship for translating his work, and I have devoted my life to the mission of bridging cultural material from my native country.

Shamlou’s sublime poetry is about the beauty buried inside that elevates, his staggering imagery adapted to animate the opera. Abraham in Flames takes its audiences on a journey of awakening to our humanity, a celebration of the power of art, focusing on the empowerment of young women, their journey to agency and independence from (male) influences. Abraham in Flames is a Bildungsoper—an opera of our formative years and spiritual education.

We tell this story in a flipped relationship: the chorus is the main character and soloists have supporting roles. The role of Poet is also flipped, sung by a female to diffuse the patriarchal norm of males looming as authority figures in women’s lives, while the truth of the work — the indelible impact of mentors — remains intact. The singers will move around audiences in a non-proscenium venue in a seamless transfer of human voice.

We ask NMUSA to support the residency/workshop performances of the first 35 minutes of opera in Fall 2017.

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Atash Sorushan (Fire Angels) (2011/2014) [Composer Mark Grey, Librettist Niloufar Talebi, Soprano Jessica Rivera]

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Tassel (by Anna Meredith - 2016)

Performed by The Living Earth Show & Post:Ballet, Music composed by Anna Meredith, Choreography by Robert Dekkers, Directed by John Sanborn. This video demonstrates the versatility of the LES as artists within immersive, multimedia, and innovative projects. The LES will be the core duo leading the ensemble of 6 musicians in our opera. The LES always memorizes their parts, and Director Roy Rallo envisions them taking part within the operatic performances as performers, in addition to musicians.

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Project Details

Start and End Date

09/30/2017 - 10/04/2017


San Francisco, California

Updates (3 RECENT)

Last Updated September 20, 2017

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Project Created By

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Niloufar Talebi

San Francisco, California

Niloufar Talebi is a writer, award-winning translator, and multidisciplinary artist. Her work as librettist includes, Atash Sorushan (Fire Angels), Epiphany: A Requiem, The Plentiful Peach, and The Investment, The Disinherited, and as creator/performer, ICARUS/RISE, and The Persian Rite of Spring. She is the Editor/Translator of the bilingual BELONGING: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World (North Atlantic Books, 2008) and Vis &...


The Living Earth Show

San Francisco, California

Role: Core Ensemble

Roy Rallo

Role: Director

Aleksandra Vrebalov

New York City, New York

Role: Composer

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