Melbourne International Arts Festival will host the Australian premiere of Layla and Majnun, a classic Middle Eastern story of love created by renowned American choreographer Mark Morris and Silkroad Ensemble, founded by legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Performing in Australia for the first time, virtuosic musicians from the celebrated Silkroad Ensemble will fuse musical traditions across cultures, alongside sixteen dancers from the Mark Morris Dance Group in their Melbourne premiere, inspired by ballet, modern and folk dance and led by one of the most gifted choreographers in the world.

Central to the work are Azerbaijani mugham vocalists, Alim Qasimov alongside his daughter and protégée Fargana Qasimova, whose vocal commands have earned them rockstar status, including a UNESCO Music Prize, one of the most prestigious international prizes in music.

The tale of Layla and Majnun, the story of would-be lovers doomed to separation and death which has transfixed humanity for millennia, will be shown exclusively in Melbourne in October in the largest-scale production of this modern classic ever seen in the West.

Backed by a dazzling stage and costume design by the late Howard Hodgkin, one of Britain’s greatest contemporary artists, the stunning set will feature a backdrop of his famous painting ‘Love and Death’ which will be accented by flowing gowns and tunics in coral and blue.

Pre-dating Romeo and Juliet by a thousand years, this tragedy of unfulfilled yearning, as described by Mark Morris as ‘an enlightening tragedy – a visually, musically and choreographically unified and self-contained concert piece,’ is ultimately elevated into a communal celebration of love’s power to penetrate even the hardest of hearts.

This must-see Australian premiere event will be performed exclusively as part of the Melbourne Festival at Arts Centre Melbourne. The full Melbourne Festival program will be announced on 25 July 2018.

October 10 – 13

Tickets on sale Fri 16 June at 12PM