Opera in 4 acts, 5 scenes


Libretto by


Premiere performance took place on 24 December 1944.

Musical Director and Conductor – Alan BURIBAYEV,

Honored Worker of Kazakhstan

Director – Giancarlo del MONACO (Italy)

Consultant Director – Yesmukhan OBAYEV,

People’s Artist of Kazakhstan

Set Designer – Ezio FRIGERIO (Italy)

Costume Designer – Franca SQUARCIAPINO (Italy)

Projections Designer – Sergio METALLI (Italy)

Lighting Designer – Vinicio CHELI (Italy)

Chorus Master – Yerzhan DAUTOV,

Honored Worker of Kazakhstan

Choreographer – Тursynbek NURKALIYEV,

Honored Worker of Kazakhstan


Honored Worker of Kazakhstan

A performance with one intermission

Running time 2 hours 30 minutes

Performed in Kazakh

(accompanied by synchronised Russian and English supertitles)


ABAI, Great poet, philosopher – Sundet BAIGOZHIN, Honored Worker of Kazakhstan / Talgat MUSSABAYEV, Honored Worker of Kazakhstan / Zhanat SHYBYKBAYEV, Honored Worker of Kazakhstan

AIDAR, Abai’s student, poet – Zhan TAPIN, Honored Worker of Kazakhstan / Meir BAINESHOV

AZHAR, Aidar’s sweetheart – Saltanat AKHMETOVA / Maira MUKHAMEDKYZY, Honored Artist of Kazakhstan / Aigul NIYAZOVA, Honored Worker of Kazakhstan / Zhannat BAKTAY, Honored Artist of Kazakhstan

ZHIRENSHE, Head of the clan – Yevgeniy CHAINIKOV / Kazbek DOSMUKHAMBETOV

AZIM, Abai’s relative and student – Ramzat BALAKISHIYEV / Beimbet TANARYKOV

KOKBAI, Poet and Abai’s student – Talgat GALEYEV / Sundet BAIGOZHIN, Honored Worker of Kazakhstan

KARLYGASH, Abai’s relative – Tatyana VITSINSKAYA / Saltanat MURATBEKOVA

SYRTTAN, Respectable judge – Bolat YESSIMKHANOV / Barseg TUMANYAN, People’s Artist of Armenia / Artur KAIPKULOV, Honored Artist of Bashkortostan

NARYMBET, Zhirenshe’s relative – Yerulan KAMEL / Beimbet TANARYKOV / Ramzat BALAKISHIYEV

MES, Young man from Narymbet’s entourage – Nurlybek KOSPARMAKOV / Kazbek DOSMUKHAMBETOV


Management reserves the right to substitute artists



First scene

It is night. Young lovers Azhar and Aidar are running away from the enraged family of Narymbet. (Fair Azhar was engaged since childhood, but, after the death of her fiancé, according to ancient tradition she must marry his brother Narymbet). Aidar is disheartened as his horse has died and they will not be able to escape from their pursuers, though Abai’s village is not far.

Azhar begs Aidar to flee alone, but he rejects: “How can I spend the rest of my life in shame? I’d rather die!”. They try to hide behind the ruins of an ancient mazar. But then, suddenly, the pursuers appear, screaming: “Seize them! Bind them!” They bind the couple and prepare to tie them to a horse’s tail and gallop it. Aidar and Azhar say goodbye to each other. In despair, Aidar cries out for his teacher Abai.

Abai appears together with Aidar’s friends – Kokbai, Abai’s relative and descendant of a noble family Azim, and others. Abai orders Kokbai to cut the rope. Narymbet’s relatives together with the head of the clan, Zhirenshe, cite the ancestors’ law, but Abai seeks justice. Being confident of his victory in court, Zhirenshe agrees and lets Aidar and Azhar go.

Second scene

Left alone, Azim ponders about Aidar’s guilt. Zhirenshe comes and asks him to help him to return Azhar back home. This would bring peace, which is very important to Azim.

Zhirenshe says: “Even though Abai is close to you, the people is your true friend. Even if Abai infuriates them, the people will not hurt you!” He leaves Azim with his thoughts.

Meanwhile, Abai and Aidar have a conversation in Abai’s room. Abai praises Aidar’s poetic talent. His praises spark envy and jealousy in Azim, who suddenly comes in. He considers Aidar’s songs to be rebellious and blames Aidar for inflaming hostility. However, Abai supports his student – the heat of the struggle inspires him to compose!

Filled with anger, Azim leaves.

The elder Syrttan comes to hear what Azhar has to say, as she has no right to address the court and state her defence. Azhar tells him about her wretched life and her feelings for Aidar. After listening to her sincere and touching story, Syrttan leaves, saying that he will deliver the verdict the next day.

Left alone, Abai decides to protect the young couple


Third scene

In court. The assembled people are waiting for the verdict of Azhar and Aidar. In his first speech, Syrttan brings up the issue of the ancient laws of the ancestors. Zhirenshe defends the ancient traditions, which have always provided peace in the Steppe. His opponent Azim proclaims the primacy of human feelings and the power of love, which was illustrated in the lives of Zhibek, Bayan, Leila and Juliet. He appeals for mercy, as the love of two should not be a reason for clan enmity. Zhirenshe agrees to spare Azhar, provided that she returns to her village, but he wants execution for Aidar, to make and example of him and to keep the integrity of the laws of the Steppe.

He mentions the elder Kengirbai, who in ancient times imposed the death sentence on Yenlik and Kebek. Zhirenshe denounces Abai for his protecting of the violators of the law. Abai asks Syrttan to allow him to speak. In his speech he recalls that people avoided Kengirbai after his severe verdict.

Abai calls for nonviolence, otherwise, this day will be remembered as shameful.

The elder Syrttan admits the guilt of Azhar and Aidar, but says that they will not be punished. Being their respondent, Abai will pay the damages, thus Aidar and Azhar will be free from execution. Rejoicing people congratulate Abai and his students. Left alone, Zhirenshe, Narymbet and Mes decide to kill Abai, whom they consider to be the main culprit of their loss. Narymbet gives poison to Zhirenshe.



Forth scene

Pre-wedding preparations. Karlygash rejects Kokbai’s awkward courting. Abai, Aidar and Azim enter. Abai makes fun of Karlygash’s unlucky admirer and sends them both to prepare for the wedding performance. People ask Aidar to sing a song. Being afraid of new riots, Azim asks Aidar not to sing the song about Yenlik, but Aidar does not listen to him. Azim’s heart is full of envy and anger, as everyone loves Aidar, in particular, Abai. He decides to kill the young talented poet. Azim has convinced himself that Aidar is following the wrong path and is leading Abai astray. Azim believes in the justice of the ancestors’ laws.

The wedding ceremony starts. Abai feels happy. The festive dance is followed by the opening of the bridal veil and the bride’s obeisance to the respected relatives and guests.

Seizing a favourable moment, Azim adds poison, which he took earlier from Zhirenshe, and gives the cup to Aidar. The dances continue, accompanied by the lyrical song “Karlygash”.

The guests ask Aidar to sing again. He performs the song “I said hello, Kalamkas”, but suddenly he collapses.


Fifth scene

Aidar is on his deathbed. He says goodbye to Azhar and regrets of having spent so little time with her. Abai and Azhar are grief-stroken. Aidar asks a question: “Can a person die from a curse?” Abai denies such a statement. Then Aidar shows his chest asking: “Then, what is this?”. Everyone is shocked – Aidar’s body has blackened! Aidar himself answers: “I’ve been poisoned!”.

Abai orders Kokbai to call people and with deep sadness informs them about Aidar. People are infuriated and demand to find the poisoner. Kokbai points publicly at Zhirenshe. Outraged people wait for his confession, but Zhirenshe swears his innocence to the elder Syrttan, who accepts it. Zhirenshe points at Azim asking him to swear too. Azim refuses. People curse him and, after tying him to a horse’s tail, put the horse into gallop. Aidar is dying. The funeral cry of Azhar is heard.

Abai is left alone in the darkness, but he believes in his people. Like a beacon, he shows them the path to a brighter future.

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