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Folding radio drama-style stories into a top-flight world music concert, The Forgotten Kingdom conjures women’s voices lost to war. Audiences traverse picturesque Mediterranean port towns and ruined Ottoman villages, from Salónica to Sarajevo, guided by an "international tour-de-force" (Bethlehem Morning Call). World-class musicianship and cinematic storytelling restores living colour to faded, sepia snapshots of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary upheaval.
Weaving together late 19th/early 20th-century women’s songs from Sephardic enclaves of the former Ottoman Empire, the show evokes a panorama of the unraveling of an older Mediterranean world — not as we see it today with the benefit of textbook hindsight, but as ordinary people lived it, unaware of how the dots would connect. With song lyrics in Ladino, an endangered blend of archaic Spanish with Turkish and Greek, together with English narration, with heart and humour, the show renders scenes of daily life from WWI and the Ottoman Empire’s collapse to the glimmers of democratic hopes crushed by fascist regimes that cloaked entire communities in a ‘shroud of oblivion.’
To bring audiences into these moments, the Ensemble draws on traditional tunes, techniques, and tales but in elegant arrangements and with radical reframing. The bittersweet rawness of Tango, gorgeous vocal harmonies and the rhythmic fire of classical Arabic percussion intensifies the emotionality of Western classical music. Adding such personal human dimensions to tales of the long-ago-and-far-away, The Forgotten Kingdom stirs resonant questions about our own struggles and dilemmas today.
The Ensemble is recipient of multiple funding awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Boston Foundation, the New England Foundation for the Arts and Western Arts Alliance on the basis of its artistry, cultural preservation and the strengthening of communities through the arts.