Friday, March 3, 2023

Praise for A Thousand Splendid Suns

John Moore (Rasheed) and Karin Mushegain (Mariam) in A Thousand Splendid Suns. © Sunny Martini

Haunting and beautiful, the story and music merge as one in this formidable show.” Broadway World

“It is difficult to think of a way in which this opera and this production could have been improved. We congratulate Seattle Opera for bringing this beautiful and important work into existence, and encourage readers to attend this wonderful world premiere.” –SGN

“By the end of this deeply engrossing saga of a life-changing friendship, you’ll have a new impression of Afghanistan imprinted in your mind — thanks to fleeting scenes of a prosperous Kabul shopping district filled with women in colorful modern dress, of children playing happily — along with a lingering sense of the power of love and female courage.” –Crosscut

“I happened to be at the Seattle Opera on the pay-what-you-can night, and I felt the audience reflected how opera was always supposed to be. In my 20 years of classical music-going, this was one of the more diverse audiences I’ve seen for a venue where tickets start at a higher price point than most are comfortable with. The audience was also exhilarating. People gasped and jeered, just like audiences have been for more than four centuries. As the show went on and people became more comfortable, I found myself smiling at the beautiful experience of live opera performances. […] If you have never been to the opera, if you are interested in seeing the small stories of these women portrayed with the bigness they deserve, I recommend it.” –Real Change

Karin Mushegain (Mariam) and Maureen McKay’s (Laila) bond over their shared circumstances. © Sunny Martini
“As Opera, A Thousand Splendid Suns Is a Perfect Fit” –Musical America Worldwide

“The opera, which opened Saturday night, brought lyrical, beautiful music to a poignant tale on the McCaw Hall stage.” –The Seattle Times

“The cast of A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS is an indomitable force.” –

Rafael Moras (Tariq) likens his love for Maureen McKay (Laila) to that of Layla and Majnun. © Sunny Martini

“[A Thousand Splendid Suns] is a haunting, atmospheric work full of lush evocative music rendered in technicolor orchestrations inflected with Afghanish [sic] flourishes.” –Post Alley

“The stagecraft and the power of the music, which combines punches of western music worthy of a Sibelius or a Stravinsky, punctuated by Hindustani motifs, make the experience a wall of unbelievable light and sound come throbbing off the stage with Mariam at the center. At many times during this opera, I was suffocating and trying not to sob.” –Northwest Asian Weekly

“The story is absolutely heartbreaking yet transcendently gorgeous, a reflection upon love and family, the intersection between the two, and the struggles of women in everyday life. I found myself in tears by the end of the performance, the emotional weight of the words of the actors washing over me in waves throughout the opera. I would highly recommend attending.”  –Drama in the Hood

Seattle Opera cast members as vendors and market-goers on the streets of Kabul. © Sunny Martini
“Despite the women-focused nature of the plot, the male voices also shone. As Tariq, Rafael Moras’ honeyed tenor blended beautifully with the soprano of Maureen McKay’s Laila during their delicate love scene, one of the opera’s musical highlights. Baritone John Moore brought a larger-than-life presence to the villainous husband, Rasheed.” –The Seattle Times

“The intention behind everything the Seattle Opera does is highly commendable. From hiring Afghan consultants, Afghan musicians, and other Afghan artisans, the flavor that was so needed in this story was absolutely there.” –Eclectic Arts

“Silver’s music deftly meshed traditional South Asian instruments with the orchestra and the voices on stage” –The Seattle Times

“In its most indelible moments—above all, when the bond between Mariam and Laila emerges as the opera’s true love story—A Thousand Splendid Suns reaffirms the human connection that crosses cultures and that may, in this era of extreme polarization, be our last hope.”–Musical America Worldwide

Karin Mushegain (Mariam) cradles Maureen McKay’s (Laila) daughter, Aziza, as they consider a life of freedom. © Sunny Martini

“Over a decade in the making, this opera represents the efforts and labors of love of so many. Representative Pramila Jayapal, in attendance on opening night stated, 'it was a reminder of the importance of what we are fighting for.' On a night of magic, we were all reminded that hope and courage live in the cracks between the hard rocks of oppression and subjugation. A reminder that love exists in all places, and the yearning in the hearts of those behind the closed walls will always be a light like that of a thousand splendid suns.” –

“Mushegain's remarkable voice is earthy and full. She casts a spell over you with her heart-breaking spirit that refuses to lose hope.” –

“As Mariam, mezzo-soprano Karin Mushegain imbued her lines with a compelling blend of pathos, despair, and, especially in her transcendent final scene (with a nod to Puccini’s Suor Angelica), radiance.” –Musical America Worldwide

John Moore (Rasheed), Karin Mushegain (Mariam), and Grace Elaine Franck-Smith (Zalmai) in A Thousand Splendid Suns. © Sunny Martini

“John Moore’s dusky baritone, by contrast, spewed cruelty and scorn but never warmth, underscoring the prison of static resentment Rasheed has built around himself.” –Musical America Worldwide

“Maureen McKay fearlessly shaped Laila’s high-lying, at times acrobatic lines with lyrical warmth and passion and showed extraordinary mettle in her moments of confrontation. The chemistry was palpable between her and Rafael Moras in the tenor role of her lover Tariq, whose unexpected return to Kabul precipitates the culminating crisis. Moras navigated the part’s high tessitura with heroic bravado.” –Musical America Worldwide

“The world opera premiere of A Thousand Splendid Suns was sort of surreal, but then again, so is life. In the same way that Khaled Hosseini’s words struck chords 20 years ago, helping me to imagine a world unlike my own, this performance hit me differently than I’d expected. I did flinch, a few times, at reminders of the traumas in my past, but I was amazed at how it approached the reality of life and its potential for ugliness with so much grace, leaving out unnecessarily triggering moments without actually excluding them from the performance. @khosseini has never been afraid to show us the truth, despite knowing that it will not be comfortable to see. Thanks @seattleopera for opening up worlds of conversation and enlightenment.” –Zena A, from Instagram

Karin Mushegain (Mariam) in A Thousand Splendid Suns. © Sunny Martini

“@SeattleOpera's opening of A Thousand Splendid Suns last night was a revelation. As a student of asian and western baroque, it was daunting, and brave. The piece bares Afghanistan's wounds, and threads in its day-to-day medicine throughout. A clarion, woven with blessings.” –Kevin K, from Twitter

“Bravo! What a moving, beautiful, magnificent piece. And may peace, empathy and greater human rights expand from this deep and powerful art. Thank you to all the talented cast, crew, compose Sheila Silver, director Roya [Sadat], Bansuri player (Steve Gorn - Bansuri Virtuoso) Steve Gorn and all!” –Gina S, from Facebook

“Remarkable, astonishing achievement. I would have imagined such a creation nearly unthinkable in today's art macrocosm. For once, it feels good to be wrong!” –Giles K, from Instagram


A Thousand Splendid Suns runs now through March 11, 2021. Tickets and info at


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