Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Director's Outlook: A Thousand Splendid Suns

By Roya Sadat

A Thousand Splendid Suns' Stage Director, Roya Sadat, shares her perspective on this new opera and how it reflects the culture of her native Afghanistan.

Roya Sadat is Afghanistan’s first woman film and television producer during the post-Taliban era and the winner of more than 20 international film awards, including the 2021 Kim Dae Jung Nobel Peace Film Award and the 2018 International Women of Courage Award presented by the United States Department of State. Sadat is among the BBC’s 100 Inspiring and Influential Women for 2021. Her three films—A Letter to the President (’17), Playing the Taar (’08), and Three Dots (’03)—have been invited to more than 60 International Film Festivals. A Letter to the President was selected as the official entry from Afghanistan for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards. In addition, she has produced eight documentary films, three television programs, as well as a music video.

A Thousand Splendid Suns at Seattle Opera is more than a performance or a show. It is a story spanning four decades, unfolding on the stage of historic Seattle. Through the story, like turning pages of a book, we follow the colorful history of a nation. It is a beautiful culture that war has painted over with a different color. Though the story centers an Afghan narrative, its themes are universal. Love and sacrifice have a loud voice in this narrative. It speaks of the victory of light over darkness. It is the message of humanity and the message that the world must hear.

Roya Sadat (right) with A Thousand Splendid Suns' composer, Sheila Silver (left).

Sometimes I feel that we artists have not yet fulfilled our mission properly. Countries continue to be connected or separated through power and politics. We mostly hear each other’s stories from different parts of the world through news outlets, filled with shock and trauma. It plays with the fate of human beings.

But art brings hearts and cultures closer together with love and loyalty. Let’s ask ourselves: how much did we, as artists and creators, play a role in introducing different cultures to our audiences? Are we celebrating our differences? Are we sharing stories not only of a culture’s sorrows, but also of their joys?

With A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Seattle Opera is doing just that. The opera reveals the cycles of a nation. The world is seeing once again how terrorists invade in the midst of smoke, gunpowder, and guns. Violence and wars impose their ugliness on the beauty, ancient culture, and the dazzling art of this country. But anger and hatred can be destroyed by the light, love, and affection of the sunshine. Like thousands of shining suns, the people of Afghanistan have always stood up to violence and shouted for freedom and life.

The city of Herat, Afghanistan, where A Thousand Splendid Suns takes place. Photo by Ali Mosavi on Unsplash.
Afghanistan is a country with an ancient history, and one of the earliest human civilizations. It is the land of unfinished love. The land of Rumi. The land of writers, poets, and artists. It is the land of historical, beautiful, and magnificent ancient architecture. It is the land of calligraphy, and miniatures. It is the land of wine.

Forty years of war hangs in the glorious face of this ancient civilization, a dark dust of violence, hatred, guns, and bombs. But the thousand shining suns are the messages of love, courage, loyalty, self-sacrifice, and the victory of light over darkness.

Seattle Opera’s world premiere of A Thousand Splendid Suns runs Feb. 25–Mar. 11, 2023. Tickets and info at

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