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date: 20 October 2019

Shakh-Senemlocked

  • Stephen Johnson

Extract

Opera in three acts by Reyngol’d Moritsevich Glier after an Azerbaijani legend; Baku, 17 March 1927 (revised version, Baku, 1934).

The opera tells of the wandering ‘Ashug’ musician Kerib (tenor), who takes part in a singing competition for the hand of the Shah’s beautiful daughter, Shakh-Senem (soprano). He wins, but the Shah (baritone) is angered by his poverty and his championship of the oppressed people. He banishes Kerib, but the people, who have sided with the young Ashug, mutiny, and Shakh-Senem defies her father, vowing to be faithful to Kerib. Her patience is rewarded in Act 3, when her lover returns in triumph to claim her hand and liberate the people from the Shah’s tyranny.

Glier wrote Shakh-Senem (including possibly all or part of the libretto) shortly after his invitation to Azerbaijan to assist in the development of Soviet-style musical life. This was his first large-scale attempt to fuse the republic’s indigenous folk styles with his own conservative Russian style, and it found immediate official favour. The ethnomusicologist Uzeir Gajibekov described ...

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