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Opera & Musical Theater

Houston Opera, By Way Of Iran

A new piece commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera deals with political freedom in Iran and the effect of grief and loss on its people. The opera, titled The Bricklayer, was written by a Houston woman who fled Iran as a political exile.


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Farnoosh Moshiri was born in Tehran, Iran and from an early age her family cultivated her literary pursuits. She graduated from the College of Dramatic Arts in Tehran and published works in Iranian literary magazines.

But that all changed after the 1979 revolution.

“I left Iran illegally, because of my political activity there, with my two-year-old son, and we crossed the border of the country in 1983.”

Shortly after Moshiri fled Iran, the authorities arrested her father in retaliation.

He was harshly interrogated and eventually released, but soon suffered a stroke and lost his sight in one eye. Years later he and his wife were able to escape Iran and join their daughter here in Houston.

He died one year later.

“After he passed away, of course, I was very much grieving him and also maybe because his arrest and hardship was related to my political activity, I felt extra pain and guilt. So I kept writing. I kept writing about this and one of the things that I wrote is The Bricklayer, the short story The Bricklayer.”

The Bricklayer is the story of an Iranian man who escapes to Houston after his son is executed for political activism. The old man is broken by suffering, he’s a changed man. The story moves from despair to adjustment and finally hope. It’s a theme that Moshiri says she can’t stop writing about.

[Music from the opera]

The Houston Grand Opera asked her to turn her short story into a libretto for their program called Song of Houston:
East + West.

She remembers when she heard her words set to the music.

“And suddenly the singers really released their voices and it was just mesmerizing. And the music is so beautiful, it has such fresh moments, that it’s all the time in my head now. When I want to sleep at night the music reverberates in my head.”

[Music from the opera]

Moshiri, now a U.S. citizen, says she hopes one day she can return to visit her homeland — she says it’s a pain and longing
felt by all exiles.

“I have imagined myself, as an old person, going back. It’s a desire that I have that I go to my childhood neighborhood and see if that house still exists or not. And the mountain that I always looked at, because Tehran from every window that you open, you see a mountain there. I miss the mountain a lot.”

The Bricklayer makes its world premiere in Houston tomorrow night and will also be performed at the Arab American Cultural Center on Friday night.

Editor’s Note:  The piece featured in this article was composed by Gregory Spears.