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Famous Azerbaijani musical staged in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, Sep. 7, 2013 /AAC/ -- LA's famous Dorothy Chandler Pavilion hosted the first-ever U.S. staging of the renowned Azerbaijani musical comedy, Arşın Mal Alan (The Cloth Peddler). Organized by the Consulate General of Azerbaijan in LA with support from the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), the event was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of this operetta by the patriarch of Azerbaijani classical music, Uzeyir Hajibeyli.

The Cloth Peddler operetta had previously been staged in over 60 countries around the globe, including Austria, France, China, Greece, India, Russia, and Turkey. Written by Uzeyir Hajibeyli in 1913, the piece was a special contribution to the world of musical art as the composer was the first to write an opera in the Islamic world.

Seeking to perpetuate the traditions of the Azerbaijani opera, Michael Schnack, the producer and music director, successfully depicted history and customs of 20th century Shusha through an eye of a contemporary viewer. Originally from Iowa, Michael has lived for the past twenty years in Vienna, Austria, where he has been privileged to work in all facets and genres of musical theater and vocal and choral music. Owing to the experience of staging the The Cloth Peddler operetta in Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Austria, in 2006, Schnack brought the play to a great popularity once again in Los Angeles.

According to Schnack, "we had a very mixed international cast in Vienna. Here in L.A., we are all Americans, which gives the piece a certain continuity. We are incorporating more dancing this time, which makes several scenes much more poetic and emotional. Also, the piece has a totally different feeling in English than it had in German -- it is less formal, and the dialogues are funnier," he believes (Azernews).

The performers, James Judd and Asha Lindsey, who played the role of main characters Asker and Gulchohra, were the personification of debonair aristocracy of the 20th century Azerbaijan. James skillfully encouraged the impression that he was indeed the living incarnation of Asker, a young wealthy merchant and a bachelor. Objecting conservative customs of society, Asker desired to see and, eventually, choose the bride himself.  While on stage, Asha debuted with talent and reproduced Gulchohra, Sultan bey’s daughter, mesmerizing the audience with her voice. Along with others, James and Asha formed a team of talented performers contributing to the great attainment of the play.

Following the performance, the Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles, Nasimi Aghayev, other Azerbaijani officials and organizers spoke at the reception held in celebration of this U.S. premiere.