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As If No Misfortune Had Occurred in the Night (2022)

Larissa Sansour (Palestine/UK) and Søren Lind (Denmark/UK) have developed a new film installation featuring an Arabic-language opera, performed by Palestinian soprano Nour Darwish. Presented as a single aria, the opera revolves around loss, mourning and inherited trauma. In the film, a Palestinian mother mourns the loss of her daughter and the eternal succession of traumas passed on to future generations.

The composition fuses Palestinian and European musical practices (Al Ouf Mash’al and Kindertotenlieder). Al Ouf Mash’al is an ever-evolving reflection of the Palestinian experience; its lyrics tell of disaster, exodus, and displacement. This is blended with an Arabic modification of Gustav Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder; an outpouring of sorrow after losing one’s child.

Larissa and Søren’s new arrangement uses these melancholic pieces to reflect on the effect of trauma on personal, collective and national identity, just as the piece explores the role of cultural ritual in the process of mourning and commemoration. The film poetically and musically laments a century of trauma, starting with the cataclysm of World War I which initiated a never-ending cycle of violence with dire consequences for the Palestinian reality, both for the region and wider international community.

Download the transcript below.

Three-channel video with surround sound (22 mins), installation environment

Commissioned by FACT and co-produced with Bildmuseet at the University of Umeå. Supported with funds from Arts Council England and Liverpool City Council.

Soprano: Nour Darwish. Costume: Omar Nasser Khoury. Composition: Anthony Sahyoun (based on Gustav Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder and the Palestinian traditional song Al Ouf Mash’al). Additional lyrics: Soren Lind. Translation: Carol Sansour and Leila Sansour. Adapted to Arabic: Leila Sansour.