Woman. Life. Freedom. – Benefit Concert for Human Rights in Iran

Ph.: Roberto Ricci


by Bianca L. Nica
February 13, 2023


On December 12, 2022, Oper Frankfurt hosted a profoundly unique evening titled “Woman.Life.Freedom”. It was a benefit concert produced by countertenor Cameron Shahbazi in collaboration with Opera for Peace, raising funds for the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center of Human Rights in Iran (ABC), and brightening the international spotlight on a community battling unthinkable darkness. The evening was recorded and available for streaming on IDAGIO. It was recently moved to Deutsche Grammophon’s streaming platform STAGE+ where it will remain available around the world. 

This special evening cleverly combined inspirational speeches poetry, video messages and, of course, beautiful music. In addition, the printed programme featured many letters and essays giving context to the situation in Iran and urging us all to pay attention and support those bravely fighting for freedom. Each contribution to the evening’s success was donated voluntarily — and there were many. In fact, we list most of the names of those involved simply to highlight the shared feeling of importance around this cause and their determination to take action.

The key speakers included Mr. Bernt Loebe, Intendant of Oper Frankfurt, Ms. Narges Eskandari-Grünberg, Mayor of Frankfurt, comedian and activist Ms. Enissa Amani, actress and activist Sepideh Moafi, Roya Boroumand, co-founder of the ABC, as well as the superstar harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani.

The poetry readings were pre-recorded and seamlessly cast on thelarge backdrop of Oper Frankfurt’s main stage. The readers included soprano Barbara Hannigan, mezzo-sopranos Joyce DiDonato and Dame Ann Murray KS, baritone Thomas Hampson KS and actress Jasmin Tabatabai.

“We performers can amuse, we can entertain — but more importantly for our own souls, we can inspire reflection, we can edify.” — and edify they did. These words were shared by Hera Heysang Park, Barbara Hannigan and Joyce DiDonato, who were joined by Julie Fuchs, Lucas and Arthur Jussen, Magdalena Kožená, Sydney Mancasola, Anna Pirozzi, Keri-Lynn Wilson Ambur Braid, Mahan Esfahani, Lilian Farahani and Cameron Shahbazi. The compilation video was skillfully created by director Joseph Paris. 

The musical performances were certainly among the highlights of the evening. The programme gave a new and powerful context to some of the most famous arias in opera. There was also sublime chamber music and a piece for solo harpsichord and electronics by Iranian composer Anahita Abbasi. The participating artists included countertenor Cameron Shahbazi, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, cellist Kian Solatani, violist Micha Afkham, sopranos Kristine Opolais, Lilian Farahani, Ambur Braid, and Giulia Semenzato, mezzo-soprano Anna Bonitatibus, flutist Azin Zahedi, percussionist Naghib Shanbehzadeh, pianists Jeff Cohen and Sophia Muñoz. The artists created Verbier-like pairings which began with a song celebrating a woman’s hair and ending with a beautiful Iranian Lullaby. As each artist finished performing, they would take a seat on stage, joining the evening as if we were all in the same kitchen or living room. This clever stage concept was delicately put together by the french opera director Pierre-Emmanuel Rousseau and was intimately lit by Gilles Gentner and Simon Hild. 

“Our courage to be on stage, to give something of ourselves at our best moments, is nothing compared to the courage of the Iranian people who rise together to throw off the repressive evils they currently face.” These are just some of the words on a joint letter signed by over 50 artists, managers and industry leaders which was provided in the printed programme. Some of the names on this long list include violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, Anita Rachvelishvili, Jakub Jòzef Orliński and Rolando Villazón. In addition, there were solo letters from Cameron Shahbazi, Mahan Esfahani, Sir George Benjamin, Jon Gilhooly of the Wigmore Hall, Iranian artist Soheila Sokhanvari and the estate of famous jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

At the end of the evening, all the artists joined together, lifting their hands up in peace signs. They were quickly joined by the audience, all on their feet, chanting “Azadi, azadi, azadi”, which means “freedom”. Donations to the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center can be made here


Sir Colin Davis
Colin Rex Davis was born on September 25th, 1927, in Weybridge, Surrey, England, and was known for his exceptional interpretations of a wide range of classical and contemporary repertoire. His early exposure to music was through the clarinet, which he started playing at a young age. His interest in conducting developed during his time at...
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Alice Lechner
Teatro Massimo
We continue our Theaters around the World column, and in this issue, we arrive in Sicily, more precisely in Palermo. It is known that Teatro Massimo di Palermo was, for a long time, the third largest opera house in Europe, after Palais Garnier and Wiener Staatsoper. The construction of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily,...
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Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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