Cantata Dramatica's commission for 2016-17 takes its inspiration from the 'Thousand and One Nights', a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories and folk tales compiled in Arabic from the eighth century AD and often known in English as the Arabian Nights, from the first English language edition (1706). Nick Pitts-Tucker's libretto deals with the final three tales and is drawn from two sources: the real life history of Arab historian Al Tabari and the wonderful poems and romance in the French translations of J. C. Mardrus and the English of Powys Mathers.
Nick's libretto uses the device of stories within a story which is a recurring feature of the 'Thousand and One Nights'. Act One begins with a song contest arranged by Haroun al Raschid, which triggers a fatal love affair between Jaffar and Haroun's sister Abbasa. The second act deals with the utterly light hearted romance of Prince Jasmine and Princess Almond while Act Three is the dark dark tale of Haroun's merciless punishment of the two forbidden lovers. All three stories are wrapped in the story of Shahrazad herself and her storytelling fight to avoid death at the hand of jealous King Sharyar.
Shahrazad's composer, Danyal Dhondy has responded to Nick's script by creating an evocative sound world for the opera while always allowing the text to shine through.