Seattle Opera to Stage World Premiere of ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ Directed by Acclaimed Afghan Filmmaker Roya Sadat

By Chris Ruel

Seattle Opera will present the world premiere of “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by composer/librettist team Sheila Silver and Stephen Kitsakos and directed by Roya Sadat, one of the first female filmmakers in Afghanistan. The show will run from Feb. 25-March 11, 2023.

Based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini, the opera relates the story of Mariam and Laila, two Afghan women brought together under the brutal Taliban rule, and whose commitment to one another sees them through life under the regime.

Sadat has won over 20 international awards for her films, including the 2021 Kim Dae-jung Nobel Peace Film Award. Her goal in directing “A Thousand Splendid Suns” has focused on creating empathy through a detailed and convincing experience.

“I want to draw the audience into this world to ensure that this story lives on in people’s hearts and minds,” said Sadat in a press statement. “Though the Taliban has taken away my right to work and my right to artistic creativity in my home country, I can raise my voice here. Opera has given me the strength to be the voice for millions of women whose right to speak has been taken away. I want this opera to be a cry so loud that you’ll never forget the women of Afghanistan and the Middle East.”

The creative team includes a cultural consultant, Humaira Ghilzai, who has assisted Silver and Kitsakos with the opera’s language and narrative. Ghilzai also advises Seattle Opera leadership about the Afghan community and helps curate opportunities for Seattle audiences to learn about Afghan art and culture.

“My work is about cultural authenticity,” said Ghilzai in an official press statement. “Audiences connect with a story when the world of the production feels real. This story is also quite timely – it’s about how women are treated in the world and whether they are allowed to make choices for themselves. These are issues we are seeing right now, not just in Afghanistan, but in the protests for women’s rights in Iran and the struggle for abortion access in the United States.”

At each show, Seattle Opera will collect donations of food and supplies to assist Afghan refugees in the Puget Sound area.