The Middle Eastern Heritage of Opera

Nearly a century ago, when my ancestors landed in the United States as a family of Syrian refugees, my great-grandmother Nabiha’s name was changed to a more Americanized “Mona.” The story was always relayed in my family with matter-of-fact pragmatism, though no one caught the irony that the new name has its own roots in Arabic, Muna, which translates into “unfulfilled wishes.”

I think of this brand of Ellis Island castration often, especially in the context of opera, an art form I was introduced to by my Syrian grandmother. With extensive roots in the Middle East, opera’s own history is similarly cut off, obscuring the true extent of its legacy. Full story.

Olivia Giovetti (Van Magazine) / April 4, 2019

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