Developed by seven international partners and led by La Monnaie / De Munt, the federal opera house in Brussels, Orfeo & Manjun is a theatrical project that weaves together two beloved myths in different regions. Since Valletta 2018 is one of the seven partners, the production is coming to Valletta later this month – as a theatre show and as a street parade.

Orfeo and Eurydice is a Greek myth about a grieving lover who enters the underworld to look for his deceased wife. Layla and Majnun is a similar Middle Eastern myth, with its origins attributed to the Bedouins in some sources. Separated from each other by Layla’s arranged marriage, two lovers continue writing poetry for each other. Both stories speak of separation and longing. Majnun and Orpheus are singers and poets, who attract animals with the beauty of their music, and animals long for them when they are gone. Thus, the creators wanted to offer an intercultural blend of them for an international audience. The shared animal theme has inspired the creators to accompany the production with workshops on animal puppets and street parades.

Participation of amateurs is the basis of this project, funded by the Creative Europe programme. The play debuted in Brussels in June and has since then embarked on a European tour around the partner countries. In Valletta, 3,000 animal puppets, 18 local band clubs, 360 dancers, hundreds of amateurs, including children, elderly, persons with special needs and many others, will march on the streets during Sfilata fil-Kapitali (Parade in the Capital), on Saturday 27th October from 2pm onwards.

This show will include several surprises for the audience, in the form of music, dance, short performances and storytelling, with the participation of renowned personalities including those from Min Imissu and Klassi Għalina as well as Kinetic Dance Academy. At 2pm, there will be an opportunity to build your own animal puppet for the parade on St George’s Square to St George’s Square. The show will run until late, when it reaches its peak with a great party at Triton Square from 9.30pm onwards.

The narrative weaves together the Maltese, English and Arabic languages, with music of Dick van der Harst, Moneim Adwan and Howard Moody. The animal puppets were created during workshops held over the past months within communities across Malta and Gozo. These puppets will animate the performances at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, and will then roam the streets and main squares of the city at the parade in the Capital during the following weekend. School children, elderly residents, band club associations, youth sections within these same organisations, Scout groups, and many others took part in the preparatory works. The workshops were, and still are, open to everyone, regardless of level of experience or ability. After Malta, the show will proceed to Vienna in Austria and Krakow in Poland, and continue well into 2019.

Does it mean that the creators edited the women out of the stories? According to the project’s website, the staged music theatre performance (Part 2) is actually written from the perspective of Layla & Eurydice, but they have been hidden away from the project’s title.

The theatre performances of Orfeo & Majnun will take place at the Mediterranean Conference Centre on the 19th and 20th October at 8pm. Tickets are at tickets.valletta2018.org. Then on the 27th October Sfilata fil-Kapitali will start in Valletta from 2pm. To participate in workshops, send an email to orfeoandmajnun@valletta2018.org.

Those who attend Sfilata fil-Kapitali may benefit from special rates when using sustainable means of transport provided by Nextbike and Tallinja Bikes. Use the code 863386 when renting a Nextbike, for a journey of 60 minutes to or from the city free of charge. The code can be used twice, on two separate trips. Tallinja Bikes will also be available for travel within the city, at a discount of 50% during Sfilata fil-Kapitali. Terms and conditions apply.