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'The Bricklayer' Details Iranian Exile Experience on Stage

Greg Flakus

A new production has opened at the Houston Grand Opera in Texas that tells the story of an Iranian exile family. The opera, called The Bricklayer, is based on a short story by Houston-based Iranian-American writer Farnoosh Moshiri, who also wrote the libretto for the work.  The story is one that reflects the experience of many people forced into exile, from Iran and elsewhere.

Even in last-minute rehearsals on a bare stage, the power of The Bricklayer's story comes through, as well as the sadness at its core.

This opera tells of one family's suffering, the son executed in Iran, the father tortured so badly he is left mentally disabled.  His part is sung by Houston Opera veteran Jon Kolbet.

Author Farnoosh Moshiri, who left Iran in 1983 and makes Houston her home says the story will be familiar to many Iranians who escaped repression and had to start a new life in a foreign country.

"Just resilience and hope can take people through hardships and the solidarity of the family members with each other," said Moshiri.  "Many families had such traumatic experience."

But she says exiles from other countries will also identify with the story of this family.

"Not only exiles from Iran, but exiles from any other dictatorial regime that they leave their country for good, it is a universal story," Moshiri added.

Composer Gregory Spears worked with Moshiri to put The Bricklayer to music.

"I think Greg has done a fabulous job of using my words, using my language for the purpose of the opera," Moshiri noted.

Spears says his partner's writing skills produced compelling lyrics.

"Farnoosh has very powerful stories, but she also has a very clear, straightforward, but also poetic style of writing," Spears explained.

Houston Grand Opera's Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers says this work reflects the city's diverse ethnic and cultural communities, using music as the common language.

"We very much want, as a leading American arts company, to be a company that tells the story of our own city," said Summers.  "In opera, music leads the dramatic pulse, and The Bricklayer is very successful at that."

This is one of several new works being developed by Houston Grand Opera as part of its "Song of Houston, East plus West" program, which celebrates the city as a meeting place for people from Eastern and Western cultures.

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