Turkish composer eyes leaving permanent mark on Istanbul

As Istanbul impatiently waits for the opening of a groundbreaking new opera house, a Turkish opera virtuoso is busy composing a momentous work to mark the occasion.

Hasan Ucarsu, a composer and musicologist, was selected last October by President Recep Tayyip to compose an opera about the famed Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, whose ingenious works dot the territory of the former Empire, particularly in Istanbul.

"I am proud to have been chosen for this task," Ucarsu, who is also a professor of music composition, said in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency.

Formerly known as Ataturk Cultural Center, the opera house and cultural center in the city's teeming district of Taksim is expected to be completed in 2021.

Ucarsu -- a student of Ahmet Adnan Saygun, the composer of Turkey's first opera, Ozsoy -- is working very hard to realize the project dubbed the Mimar [Architect] Sinan Opera.

"We are currently at the stage of editing. We're trying to build the drama right now," he said, adding: "My estimate is that we will start the active composing process as of January."

Recalling the composition process of the country's first opera, he said, "Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in 1934, ordered Adnan Saygun to compose an opera in honor of the Iranian Shah during his state visit in order to boost ties between the two countries."

Adnan Saygun was a very young composer at that time and my teacher realized the project and composed Turkey's first opera, he said.

Saying he was thankful to have had such a connection that he said "motivates" him, Ucarsu said: I feel the strength on the trail of the past behind me. I feel as if my teacher's hand, breathe and the energy of the young Republic of Turkey in the 1930s, is with me."

'Leaving permanent mark'

The selection of Architect Sinan as a theme to the opera is a very accurate decision, the composer said.

I cannot think of another theme that is as accurate as narrating an artist like Architect Sinan, who has given Istanbul its silhouette and soul."

Ucarsu wants to leave a permanent mark through his work.

This will be a work for the opening [of the opera house], but all I want is for it to be performed in different institutions after the opening," he said, adding: "I want to produce a work that will leave a permanent mark."

Ucarsu clarified that the composition would not focus on Sinan's entire life. It will be a work that focuses on a period of Sinan's life," he said.

According to the musicologist, the opera will feature both classical Turkish and classical Western music.

"My music style is such a style," he said.

I always likened myself to a compass. One of my feet is connected to my own geography and culture, while the other travels different geographies. I learned that architect Sinan also used this likening for himself, Ucarsu said.

Ucarsu has many domestic and international achievements for his works, including the David Halstead Composition Award for his work titled Monologue, Helen G. Weiss Composition Award for Mystic Fragments, and first prize for the first Dr. Nejat Eczacibasi National Competition for Composition.

He was also honored with the title of Dean's Scholar in 1997 by the University of Pennsylvania for his academic studies.

Source: Anadolu Agency