Luke Styles World Premiere — 'No Friend But The Mountains: A Symphonic Song Cycle'

Luke Styles World Premiere  — 'No Friend But The Mountains: A Symphonic Song Cycle'
Behrouz Boochani & Luke Styles
© Behrouz Boochani & Luke Styles by Hoda Afshar & Ashley Mar
2021 WORLD PREMIERE of a new Australian work by Luke Styles
Libretto by Behrouz Boochani

We are thrilled to announce the upcoming world premiere of a new Australian work No Friend But The Mountains: A Symphonic Song Cycle by Luke Styles on 21st March, 2021 at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, as part of Arts Centre Melbourne’s Live at the Bowl summer festival.

No Friend But The Mountains is the multi-award winning biography by Kurdish-Iranian journalist, writer and film-maker Behrouz Boochani that inspired this choral symphony by prolific Australian composer Luke Styles. The book chronicles the story of Boochani’s perilous journey as a refugee and his forced detention on Manus Island with other refugees.

Originally planned for November 2020 and delayed due to COVID restrictions, the 2021 premiere of this symphonic song cycle for orchestra, choir and soloist will be performed by the Zelman Symphony, Melbourne Bach Choir and Bass Baritone Adrian Tamburini, conducted by Rick Prakhoff. Drawing on Boochani’s powerful poetry and prose to tell this extraordinary story, the song cycle will also explore themes of Australian identity, including incarceration and the search for a safe haven — both recurring aspects of Australia’s story from its convict past to today.

“Behrouz’s story is the most recent iteration of an important part of Australia’s story,” says Luke Styles. “He was imprisoned on Manus Island, a place of incredible beauty and intense isolation. Australia is itself a beautiful and remote island that was and still is a multifaceted prison that has incarcerated its own people, convicts, migrants and refugees alike, throughout its history.”

Written secretly in Farsi over many years via mobile phone and sent to his translator and others as hundreds of text messages, Boochani’s book is a window into the conditions endured by detainees on Manus Island, illuminating a part of Australia’s story that was never meant to be seen. Boochani describes a brutal system ostensibly designed to deter other asylum seekers while breaking and dehumanizing those trapped in it — calling inmates by a number not a name, housing them in cramped, prison-like conditions with nothing to do all day and providing barely adequate food, water and utilities.

Boochani wrote the book not just to tell his own story, but to shine a light on the system and the people caught in it.

Luke Styles was deeply moved by the book and heard in it an Australian story that could be told through a large-scale orchestral and vocal symphony.

Zelman Symphony and the Melbourne Bach Choir with Adrian Tamburini will perform the World Premiere of No Friend But The Mountains: A Symphonic Song Cycle in a COVID-safe setting at Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl on 21st March, 2021 with some 125 performers. With Professor Boochani unlikely to be admitted into Australia to attend the premiere, organisers are planning to livestream him into the performance.


No Friend But The Mountains: A Symphonic Song Cycle
21st March, 2021 | 5.00pm
Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne
Tickets on sale from 16th December – Arts Centre Melbourne 1300 182 183 and Zelman Symphony

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