On November 18, Dubai will witness the world premiere of Persian puppetry pioneer and acclaimed theatre director Behrouz Gharibpour ’s latest production – Hafez Puppet Opera.
The opera will bring to life the poetry by Persian poet Hafez Shirazi, whose works can be found in many homes in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
And Behrouz has all the valid reasons for choosing Dubai for the world premiere. “Dubai is a cosmopolitan city with so many nationalities, so performing here is like performing before the entire world,” says the international award-winning director, whose earlier production Rostam and Sohrab here was well received.
“Hafez is a living legend.... the richness of his lyrics has been appreciated and adapted into several Oriental and Western texts and Dubai is clearly the ideal platform to honour the legend,” said Behrouz, who has received international awards such as the Hans Christian Anderson Award in 2002 and the Sierna d’Oro in 2008.
Puppetry  might be a dying art form for many, but for Behrouz it gives him the freedom to create a character that matches the exact specifications of a historical figure rather than having to depend on actors to get into the character.
“Instead of looking for an actor, I can create the puppet exactly the way I want. Another privilege is that I have excellent sound using the best voices available versus an actor’s voice that might be acceptable but not perfect for singing,” he says.
Joining him for this special event will be his team from the Aran Theatre Puppet Company, which was founded by the director himself. As many as 17 main singers and a 40-strong chorus will perform the songs with 30 puppeteers in action. The team also includes a light and decoration designer, a projection operator, marionette designers and costume designers.
The tougher part of the task, says Behrouz, “is directing the puppeteers to move the puppets in the most believable way and according to the story’s mood”. But each of Behrouz’s puppeteers, who have been trained under his supervision, are masters in their own right.
“Our group is training all the time and there’s a constant endeavour to avoid repetition or copying others’ styles. Everyone is passionate about their craft and is always seeking to elevate the level of their skills. Should anyone lose faith in our method of practice and training, he will be eliminated from the team immediately.”
One might call that cruelty, but Behrouz says, “The core of our work is more important than the superficial judgment and I’m not worried about being called cruel if that is the price I have to pay to have a perfect team and consequently a perfect performance.”
Hafez Puppet Opera
When: November 18-20, 8pm
Where: Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai
Call: 04-341 4777