Nazrul in vienna flyer


‘The kind of nonsense
That leads masses astray
Rhetoric, mythology, paving the way
For the road to Auschwitz and Dachau
Only logic without passion can show us how
The world should be’.
–Dr Hans Hoff

The idea of this piece was inspired (originally by Judith Bingham) by a real historical event, in 1951, when Kazi Nazrul Islam, Bangladesh’s National Poet, was sent to Austria. He was sent to see a Jewish Doctor to try to find a cure for his Pick’s disease. We explored the ‘Common Humanity’ of Nazrul, who was persecuted for being a non-believer and rebel against the colonial rule, and Dr Hoffman, who was persecuted by the Nazis. Promila, Nazrul’s second wife, who was Hindu, accompanied him. Nurse Mathilda is the link between the cultures, having spent several years working in Calcutta, while coming from a European, Christian background. Carl Jung represents the psychological encounter with Hans Hoff and his philosophy.

A chamber opera that blends Indian music, dance and opera to tell a snippet from the life of Kazi Nazrul Islam, (1899-1976), Bengali poet and musician; national poet of Bangladesh. Nazrul was a poet, writer, musician and revolutionary.

This piece is set in Vienna, just post WW2, with Nazrul and his wife meeting an Austrian physician, Hans Hoff, who is their last chance for a cure for Nazrul’s Pick’s disease. Pick’s disease is a rare form of progressive dementia, involving localized atrophy of the brain and leading to the inability to communicate.

In addition to Nazrul and his wife, we introduced the characters of Hans Hoff, the Austrian jewish physician and his christian Austrian nurse Matilda,who has travelled extensively in India; and Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology.

Because Nazrul was often incarcerated for his beliefs and now is suffering from a disease which effects the ability to communicate, this piece looked at the nature of freedom and the windows into each character’s mind.

Directed by Mukul Ahmed
Composed by Oliver Weeks
Libretto by Farrukh Dhondy and Buffy Sharpe

Conductor – Danyal Dhondy
Choreographer – Arunima Kumar
Repetiteur – Elspeth Wilkes
Stage manager – Hannah Boustred
Lighting designer – Paul Micah
Still images and Videography by Juan Carlos Orihuela
Co-produced by Buffy Sharpe

Belinda Evans – Nurse/Jung/Choir voice
Ben Thapa – Nazrul/Choir voice
Bruno Loxton – Hoff/Judge/Choir voice
Saida Tani – Pramila/Choir voice
Musicians – Oliver Weeks, Jonny Gee, Piotr Jordan, Oliver Sapsford, Hassan Mohyeddin, Flora Curzon, Ros Acton,

This project was funded by the Arts Council and supported by Rich Mix, London.

Here are some photos captured during this event :