Opera on sultan to avoid row on TV show

Opera on sultan to avoid row on TV show

İZMİR - Anatolia News Agency
Opera on sultan to avoid row on TV show

Now the life story of Süleyman the Magnificent will be told in an opera by the İzmir State Opera and Ballet. AA photo

The life of Ottoman Sultan Kanuni Sultan Süleyman, known as Süleyman the Magnificent, will be performed as a new opera production amid a continuing row over the presentation of the historical figure in a popular TV series.

The İzmir State Opera and Ballet has been working on the production, titled “Süleyman the Magnificent,” which will be featured in the 2012-2013 season. The opera, prepared by Tevfik Akbaşlı over six years, will debut Jan. 15, 2013, at the İzmir Ahmed Adnan Saygun Arts Center with a 250-person choir, soloist, ballet and orchestra staff.

Director Mehmet Balkan, speaking on the preparation of the opera, said work had been accelerated leading up to the premiere. “It is a very exciting and huge project. I believe that we will bring it to the stage in the best way.”

Balkan said that as the number of staff increased in the production, the responsibility on the director increased as well and that he felt a high level of pressure behind the stage. “As a director, I coordinate the choir, soloists, ballet team and orchestra as well as costumes, decor and lighting of the stage,” he said.

Balkan said the State Opera and Ballet, with the support of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, had given Turkish composers a place in its repertoire and led the way in the production of new pieces. “The opera written by Akbaşlı is a very good one and viewers will really enjoy it.”

Concerning the ‘Magnificent Century’
Balkan said he was well-acquainted with the actor Halit Ergenç, who plays Sultan Süleyman in the controversial TV series “Magnificent Century,” and liked his acting and tone of voice, adding that the costumes in the series were prepared by Serdar Başbuğ, also of the İzmir State Opera and Ballet.

He said he did not watch the TV series, which is at the center of a recent furor over the show’s historical accuracy, because he was working on the opera. “I am working on the same plot. I watched it during the first season from time to time and I liked the very influential Pargalı character. Frankly, when I was offered this project, I stopped watching it to avoid any effect [on my opera]. Some criticisms are so harsh and I [distanced myself] from the series,” he said.

“The TV series is very popular and often discussed. This increases expectations for our work. You have only two hours to tell what a TV series tells in five seasons. This is really hard and people’s expectations are too high. Our responsibility is really too much,” Balkan said.

The “Magnificent Century” TV series follows the lives of Süleyman and his love for Hürrem Sultan. The show focuses more on Süleyman’s personal and palace life, portraying characters from the harem as well as the royal family.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan harshly criticized the series for its portrayal of the Ottoman ruler and his harem life, saying, “Some people claim that our history is nothing but wars, swords, machinations, strife and, unfortunately, harems. We will not see our history in that way despite some … intentionally trying to reflect it in that way.”

The prime minister also signaled that judicial authorities would look into the show. “Those who toy with these values should be taught a lesson within the confines of the law.”

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is currently laying the groundwork for a law proposing a ban of the serial.

The opera’s costume designer, Sevda Aksakoğlu, said costume preparations had begun last summer and that over 300 costumes had been prepared for the opera.