Darya Dadvar is one of Iran’s most accomplished sopranos.
Darya Dadvar is one of Iran’s most accomplished sopranos. The singer, who lives in Paris, recently performed in the French capital with the intercultural Orchestre Philharmonique de Paris-Est.
Darya’s unique style combines traditional Iranian songs with European classics. Her ability to bridge the gap between Iranian music and baroque, jazz or blues has earned her a cross-cultural following.
“I have very strong roots. I have grown up with these Persian songs. When I listen to a European song, it reminds me of a specific Persian song, and it works the other way round too, subconsciously the two merge,” she says.
Darya left Iran for France 25 years ago to study medicine. But soon, her passion for singing took over, and she switched to studying music.
Music is a global language. Darya Dadvar has long proved this by singing in as many as 12 different languages, which probably explains why people from so many different countries attend her concerts.
“Music truly transcends borders. For instance, when I sing in German, the audience enjoys it as much as when I sing in Persian or in French. You soon realise that the language is not just a means of communication, but it translates your feelings. Since my songs come from the heart, they connect with the hearts of the audience. The energy emanating from the audience makes this connection possible,” says the soprano.
Blessed with a powerful soprano voice, Darya started out as a soloist. But she soon opted for a much more challenging career path.
“I decided I didn’t want to be an opera singer who just performs others people’s work,” she explains. “After spending two months as a soloist at the Compiègne opera, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to work on my own. I had something to say and I took the risk, and I really enjoyed it.”
Kucheh, or the Alley, one of the pieces performed at the recent Paris concert, is inspired by a poem by prominent contemporary poet Fereydoon Moshiri.
Renowned Iranian composer, Mehrdad Baran, remembers how he got the idea of composing the music to this poem: “When I realised that the Kucheh poem had great visual potential, I wrote a specific song from each image in the poem. So it didn’t work the other way round, where a composer has a melody in mind to go with a poem.”
Darya Dadvar was the first Iranian woman to perform on stage as a soloist in Iran, 24 years after the Islamic revolution. She loves her country but has made Paris her home. Blessed with a silky soprano voice, she moves effortlessly from Iranian folk to Autumn Leaves, My Fair Lady and Bizet’s Habanera. RFI caught up with her after a recent benefit concert in Paris in support of the Maison des Femmes (Women’s house) which cares for victims of sexual violence.
Davdar sits casually on a bench in the corridor post-concert, still dressed in a strapless long black taffeta dress. We’re regularly interrupted by a flurry of women who come and thank her.
“Magnificent, so moving” says one elderly woman, her voice trembling. Davdar touches her chest in recognition.
The young soprano sang Dota cheshme sia dari, accompanied by pianist Vadim Sher and violinist Dimitri Artemenko.
“This song is one of my favourites,” she says. “It’s a man talking to a woman saying ‘You have beautiful dark eyes, you have such a power on me that I sometimes feel you are in competition with God. And in such a bad world with so much war and injustice, I’m just happy looking at you, being with you. How is it possible with these deep beautiful dark eyes that you don’t see that?’ ”
The song, by the late Iranian composer Bijan Mofid, is one of many folk songs she grew up with.
“My mother was a singer and after the revolution, when it was forbidden to sing, we were continuing to sing at home,” she says, her own dark eyes sparkling.
She watched a lot of movies, especially musicals like My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music, which had been very well translated into Persian.
“I was singing all the songs in Persian and then I asked to watch the original in English. Then I was mixing it all the time. In parties, with my family, I was just like a cassette. My mother said ‘Darya sing it in English, now sing it in Persian’.”
Eight years study in France
Davdar left Iran in 1991 and moved to France where she spent eight years studying music at the conservatory.
In 2003 she sang in Tehran with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra directed by the Armenian-Iranian conductor Loris Tjeknavorian. The first Iranian female soloist to perform there since the Islamic revolution, she believed it was the beginning of a new era.
“I thought doors are opening, but after that everything closed again. It became even worse,” she says.
When Hassan Rohani was elected president in 2013 Dadvar once again thought the situation for women singers would change.
“I thought Iran is opening the doors to foreigners, to tourism, they’re signing [deals], they’re coming out of these miserable closed frontiers and now I hear again that girls cannot do cycling,” she sighs. “I don’t know what it is, because they’re listening to all these women’s voices and they listen to my voice and then they say ‘no she can’t sing’ [in public].”
Social media may bring change
While Davdar is frustrated at the situation for female singers in Iran, she believes it will ultimately change, partly thanks to the social media and internet revolution. In the meantime she’s built up a large fan base here in Europe, drawn to her classical arrangements of Iranian folk music and the way she blends opera, jazz and even blues.
“I began as an opera singer,” she says, “but now I consider myself just a singer because I use the technique of opera to pass [on] a message.”
She says she simply wants to bring people together.
“When you are in my concert you don’t feel the difference between languages, it’s just a feeling that’s being communicated.”
Persian, French, English or German “is just the surface” she says, and what’s important is underneath. “We’re all people, we all have pain, we fall in love, we’re all the same.”
دریا دادور, این بار با اجرای ۶ قطعه (۴۵ دقیقه )
٤ ترانه فولكلور
– عزيز جون
– ميخوام برم كوه
– جينگه جان
– كوچه لر
– يك قطعه ١٥ دقيقه اى ساخته مهرداد بران روى شعر كوچه مشيرى كه براى اولين بار اجرا ميشود
– ترانه آزادى از اوپراى نابوكوى وردى (Nabucco de Verdi)
خاک مهر آیین
آهنگساز: علی اکبر قربانی
شعر: اسما عیل فرزانه ای سرزمین من
دور از تو باد ای مرز باور دست اهریمن
ای خاک مهرآیین
ای در پناه لطف یزدان جاویدان ایران
تو که در دامانت لاله میجوشد
سحر از چشمانت ژاله مینوشد
وطنم ای دلها جمله مجنونت
مست و شیدا، کوه و دریا دشت و هامونت