Sumeida's Song Section:Opera MOHAMMED FAIROUZ

An Opera in Three Acts
by Mohammed Fairouz

based on Tawfiq El-Hakim's Song of Death

Act I.
A peasant house in a peasant village
in Upper Egypt

Asakir and Mabrouka, two Upper-Egyptian peasant women, are sitting in silence and listening for a train痴 whistle. Once they hear the whistle sounded, Asakir anxiously questions whether her son Alwan is on the arriving train. Her sister, Mabrouka, reassures her that Alwan will be arriving as per a letter that the assistant schoolmaster of the village read over to them.

Asakir tells Mabrouka that she hopes that the identiy of her son has not been revealed to the rest of the village-people. Mabrouka assures her sister that the village has been led to believe that Alwan drowned in the water-well when he was a child of two years. Citing village rumours, Asakir expresses her doubts that the Tahawis, a family with whom the Azizi family of Asakir and Mabrouka have an ancient blood-feud, really believe that Alwan is dead.

Asakir proclaims to Mabrouka that soon the whole village will learn that her son, the son of her murdered husband, is still alive and that the murderer of his father and the rest of the Tahawis should fear his vengeance. Asakir desperately awaits her son痴 return to restore the honor of the Azizis after a wait of seventeen years. She reveals that she had instructed her nephew, Mabrouka痴 son Sumeida who has been sent to fetch Alwan from the station, to sing as a sign that his cousin has come.

Mabrouka remembers how so long ago she smuggled her nephew Alwan away from the village to Cairo and left him with a relative of Asakir痴 who Asakir instructs to raise the boy as a butcher 都o that he may use a knife well. Alwan, however runs away from the butcher shop to join the ranks of students at the great Azhar University and attains the rank of Sheikh.

When the next whistle is heard announcing the departure of the train from the station, Asakir and Mabrouka rejoice that Alwan must have come and that he will surely avenge his father痴 death and restore the family honor. Their joy gives way to doubt and eventually desolation when they do not hear Sumeida痴 singing. Slightly delayed, however, Sumeida痴 song is heard emerging from the distance and heralding the long-awaited arrival of Alwan. Asakir celebrates with the statement: 吐rom now, oh, Suweilam Tahawi, your hours are numbered!

Act II. The same house

Asakir and Mabrouka are waiting by the entrance in anticipation of Alwan痴 arrival and soon Sumeida enters announcing his cousin. Alwan enters and is embraced by his mother. He then greets his aunt Mabrouka who tells him that 登ur hope lies in you and leaves with her son Sumeida.

Asakir, now alone with her son, quickly dispenses with pleasantries and tells Alwan to 努ait while I bring you something you have never seen before. She goes off and returns with a saddlebag that she has kept for seventeen years. She explains to her son that this is the saddlebag in which his father痴 body was brought to her carried upon his donkey. She describes finding her husband痴 head in a pocket while in the other she discovered the rest of his body cut into pieces. Finally, she presents her son with the knife of the murder saying that she has kept it with the blood on it so that it has rusted.

After an initial silence. Alwan gravely asks who is responsible for this crime and Asakir answers without hesitation that it is Suweilam Tahawi. When he asks her how she knows, she explains that the whole village knows. Composing himself, Alwan asks his mother if the crime was investigated to which she explains that 展e have no enemies but the Tahawis. Retaining his Azharite calm, he questions her as to how she knows that it was Suweilam Tahawi himself and about the origins of the enmity between the two families. In attempting to answer his questions, she repeatedly resorts to 敵od knows best.

Alwan then tells his mother that he has not come to kill but to tell the villagers that he wishes to bring them a better life where they will 斗ive like human beings in houses, where the animals do not sleep with them and where they have access to education, a better quality of life and clean running water.

Not understanding, Asakir dismisses her son痴 澱ookish talk and tells him to prepare himself to avenge his father痴 death. Taking heart, Alwan raises his head and tells his mother that he will not kill. After a moment of disbelif, Asakir, concealing her dismay, asks her son what he means by this. More convinced and forceful than before, Alwan states unequivocally 的 won稚 kill.

After this, she clashes with her son head-on. Going out of her mind, she convulsively repeats her hoarse and screaming pleas 都eventeen yearsthe blood of your fatherseventeen years She repeats this as someone possessed while Alwan, concerned for her, tries vainly to reason with her. She disowns her son and orders him out of her house. She curses him and, realizing the futility of his position, Alwan tells her that he will return to the station in order to return to Cairo. He prays for her and asks that her agitated soul be calmed and tells her that he will await her in Cairo where he will 兎xplain my point of view to you in a place of calm far from here. He leaves his mother disabled with shock and staring blankly into the distance.


Asakir is sitting in her place, motionless. A moment later, Sumeida appears putting his head round the door and pushing it open gently. With determination, Asakir recovers her senses and beckons Sumeida who asks about Alwan. Asakir tells her nephew that Alwan has returned to the station 鍍o flee from taking revenge for his father. She then engages in a long lament saying that the disgrace is unbearable and will make her life in the village impossible. She predicts that the voices of the village will be raised saying 展hat a failure of a belly that brought fourth such a child! and proceeds to strike at her bell with violent blows.

She strikes herself again and again while Sumeida tries to prevent her from harming herself. Asakir then asks Sumeida to bring the knife that she has kept for seventeen years so that she can use it to rip open her belly. Sumeida tells his aunt that she has gone mad. She stares at him and asks 鉄umeida-are you a man? When he asks what she wants from him, she tells him to take the knife and plunge it into the chest of her son Alwan.

Sumeida protests but Asakir explains to him that if he was a man he wouldn稚 allow his cousin to dishonor the Azizis and that, if he were to condone his cousin, he would not be able to walk like a man amongst people. The people of the village, she says, will taunt him as 殿 woman hiding behind a woman.

Blinded with defensive rage, Sumeida stretches out his hand resolutely and tells his aunt to give him the knife. She is about to give him the knife when she hesitates and says that she must wash off the rust and blood first. Sumeida impatiently demands the knife so as to catch Alwan 澱efore he makes his escape on the evening train. Asakir gives Sumeida the knife with resolution and invokes that 杜ay his blood wash off his father痴 blood that has dried on the blade. Sumeida tells her that she will her his voice raised in song if Alwan痴 killing is brought about and hurries to catch up with his cousin.

Mabrouka enters a moment later carrying a dish of salted fish on her head for Alwan. Asakir tells Mabrouka that Alwan has fled and cowered from avenging his father痴 death and so has died. Mabrouka declares this a degradation for the Azizis but Asakir tells her that Alwan will soon be buried in the ground. Not understanding, Mabrouka asks where her son Sumeida has gone and, when Asakir tells her that he has gone 殿fter Alwan to stop him from going, Mabrouka urges Asakir to give up on hoping that Alwan will stay to answer her 菟leas for perdition.

Asakir anxiously questions Mabrouka as to whether she thinks Alwan has caught the train and then hears the sound of the train whistle as the train leaves the station. Mabrouka becomes more and more frightened and confused while Asakir questions her as to whether she can hear Sumeida singing. Increasingly concerned, Mabrouka tells her sister that she cannot hear any singing and Asakir concludes, in utter despair, that 塗e hasn稚 caught up with him.

Mabrouka pleads with Asakir to listen to her but Asakir screams that she hears nothing. Mabrouka then hears Sumeida痴 singing and turns, terrified by her sister痴 state and asks desperately what is happening.

Sumeida痴 song is heard, this time heralding the death of Alwan. Asakir pulls herself together lest she collapse; even so a faint suppressed cry, like a rattle in the throat, escapes her lips. After intoning the words: 杜y son, she finally collapses.

Mabrouka (soprano)
Asakir (Mezzo Soprano)
Sumeida (Tenor)
Alwan (Lyric Baritone)

Two male dancers
Two female dancers*

Orchestra: perc./strings

This Opera is gratefully dedicated to
Kyle Alexander Cronin
"Mohammed Fairouz has written a powerful first opera. With Sumeida's Song he finds the solution - through individual sounding music and strong unerring drama- to one of the most compelling problems of our time. When Sumeida's Song is premiered, we will be witnessing a major international event."
—Tobias Picker, composer of Emmeline; An American Tragedy
"Most impressive of Fariouz's recent works is a full length opera, Sumeida's Song, which I believe should be heard and seen. In an age in which cynicism is mistaken for intelligence, Mohammed Fairouz is a refreshing antidote to the music of his generation - A true young artist , who I believe has much to say in the years ahead."
—Richard Danielpour, composer of Margaret Garner