at Sidney Myer Music Bowl

No Friend but the Mountains: A Symphonic Song Cycle

Thumbed on a phone. Smuggled out. Thousands of text messages. The near impossibility of its existence. On Nauru and Manus Island, they live in a zoo of cruelty.

No Friend But the Mountains, Behrouz Boochani’s multi award-winning book which chronicles his perilous journey as an asylum seeker and his forced detention on Manus Island, was the inspiration behind this new Symphonic Song Cycle by prolific Australian composer, Luke Styles.

Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, writer and film-maker, penned his book in secret in his native Farsi language on a mobile phone and sent it to his translator over many years as a series of hundreds of text messages. He opened up the hidden world of detention, shone a light on the conditions endured by detainees on Manus and exposed a brutal system ostensibly designed to deter other asylum seekers while breaking those caught in it.

Featuring soloist Bass Baritone, Adrian Tamburini, with the Zelman Symphony Orchestra and Melbourne Bach Choir, conducted by Rick Prakhoff, this world premiere will illuminate a part of Australia’s story the public was not meant to see.

To open the event, Behrouz Boochani will appear in conversation via video with Raf Epstein reflecting on this new adaptation of his story.

Luke Styles’ first Australian opera, Ned Kelly, premiered to critical acclaim at the 2019 Perth Festival and his song cycle, On Bunyah, premiered at Wigmore Hall, London. He is currently working on numerous projects including a new work for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra as part of its 50 Fanfares Project to re-open the Sydney Opera House.

Presented in partnership with Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra and Arts Centre Melbourne.


Portrait of Behrouz Boochani

Behrouz Boochani

Associate Professor Behrouz Boochani graduated from Tarbiat Moallem University and Tarbiat Modares University, both in Tehran; he holds a Masters degree in political science, political geography and geopolitics. He is a Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist, scholar, cultural advocate and filmmaker. 

His book, No Friend but the Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison won the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards’ Victorian Prize for Literature in addition to the non-fiction category. It has also won the Special Award at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, the Australian Book Industry Award for non-fiction Book of the Year, and the National Biography Prize. It has become an international bestseller and has been sold into nineteen countries. 

Portrait of Rafael Epstein

Rafael Epstein

Rafael Epstein is a journalist who has worked in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Timor, Indonesia, Europe and the Middle East.

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