‘Harem’ ballet on stage for almost two decades

‘Harem’ ballet on stage for almost two decades

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
‘Harem’ ballet on stage for almost two decades The Turkish ballet work “Harem” (The Seraglio), which has been staged to a full house by the Ankara State Opera and Ballet for 18 years, has broken a record. 

The longest-running ballet staged by the State Opera and Ballet, “Harem” has been performed nearly 500 times over the last 18 years. 

The choreographer and director of the ballet, state artist Merih Çimenciler, said he enjoyed producing the play. 

“When I [first] produced the ‘Harem’ ballet, there were no TV dramas about the Ottomans. I wanted to make this work very much. Because it is a ballet that sheds light on our own history, it is successful and draws great interest. ‘Harem’ is from our own life, from the Ottomans. This is why it is successful. It is an original story featuring Kösem Sultan’s passion for power in the palace,” he said. 

Stating he had read many books for the choreography of the ballet, Çimenciler said, “I give great importance to literature and script in a ballet work. If the play is based on a true source, people give it importance, too; they find themselves in the story. This is why I made true readings to make a proper basis. I think this is the reason why the ballet has drawn attention for 18 years.”

Çimenciler said he had worked on the décor and costumes of the play with Alexandre Vassiliev, who had written a thesis and worked on Architect Sinan in Moscow, and that he had benefited from his knowledge. 

Çimenler added the décor featured the traces of the Ottoman style, emphasizing the powerful effect of décor in ballet. 

‘Harem’ ballet on stage for almost two decades

Ottoman style music in ballet 

Çimenciler said that “Harem” was also important in terms of becoming the first work that used both Ottoman style music and classical Western music on a ballet stage. 

“We use works by significant artists including Hacı Arif Bey and Hammamızade İsmail Dede Efendi. The harmony of story and music is essential in ballet. So, I have chosen important works by these composers,” he said, adding that they used Turkish instruments like the ney, bendir and kanun. “In this way, ballet meets with classical Turkish music.” 

Çimenciler said “Harem” was staged during the 150th anniversary celebrations of Dolmabahçe Palace and made the opening of the Aspendos Ballet Festival and the Bodrum Festival. 

He said, “Upon a special demand, we took the stage at the Topkapı Palace selamlık section [house reserved for men]. It was very important to me to take the stage there because the story belongs there. We also took the stage at the Sait Halim Pasha Mansion. It was magical; we were warmly applauded.”

He said they also wanted tourists to view the ballet in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet and Topkapı Palace.

“We want to play in the Topkapı Palace because tourists are impressed by visual performances. In order to lure more tourists, we need to tell the Ottoman history to foreigners by merging the Western ballet with the Turkish motifs.” 

He also noted “Harem” was staged at EXPO China in 2010 and was the first ballet staged in Kayseri. “We represented Turkey in Ashgabat and also work in social responsibility projects. It is the first Turkish ballet included in the German repertoire and it was staged in Dortmund many times,” he added. 

“Harem” will be played on March 31 and April 14 in Ankara’s Opera Stage.