Today's Zaman, Turkey
Jan 3 2008

Say to compose ballet on Akhtamar legend

Renowned pianist and composer Fazýl Say will compose a ballet piece
for the romantic and tragic love story referenced in legends of
Akhtamar Island in the eastern Anatolian province of Van. Say, with
this piece, intends to create an international project in which 100
Turkish and 100 Armenian dancers will take to the stage together in
the performance of the work.

Say said that they recently met with Culture and Tourism Minister
Ertuðrul Günay over breakfast and they talked about staging Say's
"Nazým Hikmet Oratorio" in two events abroad, noting that he is
planning to stage it in Germany at the opening of this year's
Frankfurt Book Fair, where Turkey will be featured as a guest
country. He added that the oratorio will also be staged in April in
Moscow in connection with the Turkish-Russian Friendship Week and
that the Culture and Tourism Ministry State Polyphonic Choir and the
Presidential Symphony Orchestra (CSO) would take part in the
performance. Say also noted that he told the culture minister that he
wanted the oratorio to be staged in several cities around the
country. "I conveyed my desire to stage it in 10 or 15 cities. He
said he would consider it," Say stated.
Say further mentioned that Günay proposed that he should compose
music on the poems of Yahya Kemal Beyatlý, noting that he is not able
to do it for the time being because he is working on other projects;
Say said after studying the poet's life in detail, he might start to
work on it. Say, who has just completed his latest violin concerto
titled "1,001 Nights in Harem," said: "I have plans to compose three
more grand works. First I have to put them in order."

Concerning the ballet work that he will compose based on the legend
of a romantic and tragic love story on Akhtamar Island, known for its
historic church, Say said: "I want this to be Turkish-Armenian joint
production. This is because the Akhtamar legend belongs both to Turks
and Armenians." Say noted that he wants to see Turkish and Armenian
dancers on the same stage. "I took the first steps for this project
in 2004. But because of the tension caused by [the remarks on the
Armenian genocide of] writer Orhan Pamuk, we had to freeze that
project. ... Furthermore, the murder of Hrant Dink led to
difficulties. ... In the past, we had talks with the Yerevan Ballet and
Orchestra for such a project. But no progress has been made for
several years. Now, I am planning to resume this work," he said. Say
further explained that his second upcoming project was to compose a
musical piece concerning Nazým Hikmet's "The Epic of Sheik
Bedrettin," where he again plans to employ a huge cast. Say's third
project is to compose a symphony on the city of Ýstanbul.

The Akhtamar legend, which is considered the origin of the name of
the island, is about Tamara, the beautiful daughter of the clergyman
residing on the island. According to the legend, Tamara fell in love
with a Muslim shepherd from a nearby village. Every night, the
shepherd would swim to the island in order to meet Tamara. To show
her location to him, Tamara would light a candle at night. Having
learned of his daughter's love affair, the clergyman lit a candle on
a stormy night and went down to the coast, but he frequently changed
his location to exhaust the shepherd. Finally, the young boy drowned,
but he shouted in his last breath, "Oh Tamara." The girl heard his
last shout, and she, too, committed suicide, throwing herself in the
lake. The island's name is said to come from the boy's last words,
"Oh Tamara."


Today's Zaman Ankara