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No Friend but the Mountains: A Symphonic Song Cycle


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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.


Behrouz Boochani

Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist, scholar, cultural advocate and filmmaker. Boochani was a writer and editor for the Kurdish language magazine Werya in Iran. He is a Visiting Professor, Birkbeck Law School; Associate Professor in Social Sciences at UNSW; non-resident Visitin... Read more

Rafael Epstein

Rafael Epstein is a journalist who has worked in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Timor, Indonesia, Europe and the Middle East. He has covered national elections in the UK and Australia, East Timor’s vote for independence in 1999, the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, the 2005 London ... Read more


Sidney Myer Music Bowl

Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Kings Domain Gardens, Linlithgow Ave, Melbourne VIC 3000

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Acknowledgment of Country

The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.