Friday, February 3, 2023

Advance looks at A Thousand Splendid Suns

Read what the press has to say about Seattle Opera’s upcoming adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s acclaimed novel, which opens Saturday, February 25, 2023 at McCaw Hall. Learn more at

Opera magazine

Through Afghan Eyes: The creators of A Thousand Splendid Suns talk to Jessica Duchen

“‘Driving down the highway at 60pmh with tears streaming down my face,’ says Sheila Silver, ‘I thought, “This is an opera.”’ The composer, the multiple award-winning Professor Emerita of Music at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, was listening to an audiobook of A Thousand Splendid Suns by the Afghan author Khaled Hosseini. Intensely moved, Silver found herself ‘immediately attracted to its two powerful heroines who sacrifice so much for one another.’

“That was in 2010. Now, after a process lasting nearly 13 years, the finished work is about to receive its premiere at Seattle Opera. A multinational cast and creative team are set to bring this story very much of today to the stage in an art form that has never before offered a work so deeply embedded in the realities and culture of Afghanistan.”

Opera News
An Informed Narrative

“When Sadat joined the production, A Thousand Splendid Suns represented a piece of Afghan history. In August 2021, history became reality. ‘I will never forget August 15, 2021. It was my first day meeting the Seattle Opera creative team—an exciting moment for us all,’ writes Sadat. ‘But that very day, first my hometown and then my country fell to the Taliban. And the struggles that Mariam and Laila endure are happening again for the women of Afghanistan, who are being deprived of the right to work, the right to an education—the most basic of human rights. This opera is a narrative of women’s resilience.

“‘I want audiences to come away with an image of a beautiful culture full of art, literature and love stories,’ she adds. ‘I want them to see a different narrative of women’s life and liberation, their resistance, their freedom…. I want them to see the strength of female loyalty and the power of sacrifice. And finally, I want this opera to be a cry so loud that you’ll never forget the women of Afghanistan and the Middle East. This opera is a testament to their courage.’”

Opera Now
Sisters in suffering and strength

“Seattle Opera has been collaborating with the San Francisco-based cultural consultant Humaira Ghilzai to ensure respect and authenticity in the representation of Afghan and Muslim culture. Ghilzai’s career was in fact launched when Hosseini suggested her as an adviser for the film adaptation of his debut novel, The Kite Runner. She began meeting with Silver and Kitsakos while the opera was still in workshop stage and suggested details about both the characterization and the music. Overall, says Ghilzai, composer and librettist ‘have done a wonderful job of staying true to the book. These are stories that can be looked at from so many angles.’

“Ghilzai has also been working extensively with Seattle Opera’s education and outreach team to frame the opera so that the audience can ‘go deeply into understanding Afghan culture. One of the perspectives I feel that [Western] society holds nowadays is that Afghan women are downtrodden and they need to be saved.’

“‘What I love about this story is that these two women defy victimhood’, says Silver. ‘They prevail through the power of their love’.

“[Christina] Scheppelmann agrees whole-heartedly: ‘I hope that people take this opportunity to learn more about that part of the world and its culture, not just base what they think on the headlines about the Taliban. There’s more to it. As Roya points out, the book and opera are called A Thousand Splendid Suns, referring to the physical beauty of Afghanistan and the human beauty of the love story of Laila and Mariam. You don’t recognise tragedy without the beauty. It is in that contrast that the power of the story lies.’”

A Thousand Splendid Suns opens February 25, 2023, at McCaw Hall. Tickets and info at

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