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THE MAIDEN TOWER

chamber opera

Program notes:

This chamber opera was inspired by the Azerbaijani legend of The Maiden Tower.  Spring of 2001, on trip to Azerbaijan, I discovered the story through travel guides. Since there are a few versions of the story, here's the one I remember from my guide book:

There is a building in Azerbaijan whose original function is unknown.  It was obviously built in several stages (the brick type and patterning changes dramatically every few meters), an aerial view reveals a paisley shape (a native shape in this Zoroastrian land), and there is one chamber in the building that has no entrance or exit.  No one knows what is in the room.

The most haunting of the stories associated with the building involves a King and his daughter, who is approaching adolescence.  Having incestuous feelings towards his daughter, and fearing her mutual attraction to the adolescent boys of the kingdom, he decides to keep her safely locked in a tower.

Upon seeing the tower and understanding her fate, the daughter requests, "If I must be locked in the tower, at least make it tall enough so that I can have a good view of your magnificent kingdom."

At her bidding, the king has his builders add a few meters to the top of the structure.  When the daughter visits the improved tower, she climbs to the top, looks around, then informs her father the building is not tall enough.  So the king has the builders add more on to the structure.  When it is finished, again she visits the roof, and again the princess is not satisfied with the height.

 

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JUSTINE F. CHEN

COMPOSER AND VIOLINIST

2020 WINNER

OPERA America's Opera Grant for

Female Composers Seven Sisters

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