Michael Ellison

10 October 2023, 4.30 PM - 10 October 2023, 6.00 PM

Victoria's Room, Department of Music, The Victoria Rooms

Professor of Composition, University of Bristol

ERC Beyond East and West final report: An opera premiere in Istanbul

Binboğalar Efsanesi (Legend of a Thousand Bulls), is the first-of-its-kindbozlak opera by Michael Ellison, based on Yasar Kemal’s literary masterpiece of the same name and adapted by Simon Jones.  Binboğalar Efsanesitraces the disintegration of the last of the nomadic Yörük tribes in the Çukurova/Adana region of southeastern Turkey, as their millennia-old pastoral way of life is destroyed by modernization.  Hale Tetik, of Andante Magazine, wrote: The love, sorrow, grief, and rebellion, emanating from the voice of bozlak singer Fatma Aydoğan was engraved in our hearts. Erdem Şimşek's performance was, to say the least, astonishing…This magnificent team, who gave the novel a musical life without compromising its essence, left a permanent mark in the history of our music.”    The culmination of an 8-year European Research Council project Beyond East and West, Binboğalar Efsanesi integrates the dramatic, virtuoso style of traditional Bozlak voices (Fatma Aydoğan, Erdem Şimşek), with an extreme contemporary language (Hezarfen Ensemble), and elements of Yörük music such as sipsi and boğaz çalma (women’s throat singing). Ellison’s third opera for transcultural forces, the work represented a tour de force for its sung narrators (Canan Özgür, Feride Büyükdenktaş), Hezarfen Ensemble, led by Can Okan, and its bozlak soloists (premiered 17 July on the 51. Istanbul Music Festival.)

The composer will play audio from live recordings of the piece, and mention some of its challenges.


Michael Ellison is on staff at the University of Bristol.  He’s now composed three transcultural operas.

ERC Beyond East and West final report: An opera premiere in Istanbul

Claire Lacout-Özdemir.

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