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The Blood of Seyavash


Trial by Fire (see the 3rd scene), 16th century Persian Miniature




The Blood of Seyavash

Instrumentation: 3(Picc.)-3(E.H.)-2-2; 4-3-3(B.Tbn.)-1; Timp., Perc., Cel., Hp., Str.
Duration: 43 minutes
Commission Information: Nashville Ballet and Meet The Composer's Composer/Choreographer Project, a national program funded by the Ford Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Premiere Information: Nashville Ballet and Nashville Symphony, Diane Coburn Bruning, choreographer, Karen Lynne Deal, conductor, September 30, 1994
Additional Information: part of Persian Trilogy
Recording: recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra on a Delos CD titled "Persian Trilogy", conducted by JoAnn Falletta
Score and parts: Available from Presser Rental Library
Score online: Preview Score


Persian Trilogy
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Learn more about the Persian Trilogy


About The Blood of Seyavash:

The Blood of Seyavash is a ballet inspired by the story of Seyavash, one of the most dramatic and intriguing of Shahnameh. There are three principal themes in The Blood of Seyavash. These character themes transform and vary continuously throughout the piece to convey a wide range of complex emotions and events. The three principal Seyavash themes are as follows:

Destiny. The theme of Destiny is heard at the opening of the ballet. It foreshadows Seyavash’s tragic fate, recurring often in the climaxes or at the most fragile moments.

Humanity. The Humanity theme portrays Seyavash’s high moral principles, love of life and people, innocence, and internal conflict within his soul and conscience. It is heard immediately after the Destiny theme at the opening of the ballet.

Conspiracy. The theme of Conspiracy represents jealousy, and ill will towards Seyavash’s uncompromising ethical integrity. It is introduced by the piccolo in the first soft section of the opening scene.

    The ballet is in seven scenes; seven is a mythological number, as in seven seas and skies or seven days of the week. The music is symphonic and cyclical with many elaborate organizational relationships between the themes and movements. For example, the first three scenes happen in Iran and the last three scenes (5-7) in Turan (the rival country) leaving the fourth scene to function as a transition, both geographically and psychologically.

          Iran         Transition       Turan        
 I    II    III  IV  V    VI    VII

Scenes I, III, V, and VII tend to be more extroverted, while the even numbers (II, IV, and VI) are more withdrawn in character. Scenes I, IV and VII all serve as turning points, forming an arch: beginning, middle and end. The following is a brief overview of each scene:

The ballet begins with a prologue, foreshadowing the coming tragedy. It is a slow and majestic introduction that connects to the first scene without a pause. The first and second themes are introduced at the opening of the prologue.


I. Young Prince and Heir

Much of Prince Seyavash’s youth was spent in another part of the kingdom, being trained by his guardian: the great warrior Rostam. After many years, the young Prince is joyfully reunited with his father, King Kavus, and finally meets his stepmother for the first time. King Kavus proudly greets his son with a hero’s welcome, astounded by his unsurpassed fighting skills and uncompromising principles.

   Seyavash is greeted by his father, King Kavus, and his stepmother, Queen Sudabeh
   Nashvillle Ballet, Photo: Marianne Leach

II. Seduction and Betrayal  

Not long after his return, the Prince becomes wary of the advances of his stepmother, Queen Sudabeh. Under the façade of finding him a wife, she invites him to the women’s quarter. When the Prince rejects her advances, the Queen, hurt and vengeful, vows to destroy his position with the King. The second scene ends with a loud scream by the Queen when King Kavus enters, finding them with each other.

    In the early part of the scene as the seduction evolves, the solo violin presents a variation of the second theme with great flair. The same theme is played by the piccolo and a solo double bass, followed by a warm and reassuring flute solo (second theme). A jittery version of the first theme (played by the flutes and violins) unexpectedly interrupts the expressive second theme. These are all examples of how the character themes interact, vary and change rapidly to portray the dynamic and complex relationship between Seyavash and Queen Sudabeh. 

III. Trial by Fire                   

Kavus is furious, but at the same time he is confused. Queen Sudabeh seizes the opportunity to accuse Prince Seyavash of seducing her. Prince Seyavash’s denial is solemn. Torn between love for his wife and pride in his son, the King is hesitant to take action, not knowing who has betrayed him. Reluctantly, the beleaguered King is advised to call upon the ancient fire ritual to seek the truth. Ordering that a huge pyre be set, he demands that each walk through the flames. Only the truthful can survive. Prince Seyavash agrees to walk through first. When he passes through unscathed, Queen Sudabeh’s betrayal of the King is confirmed. The Queen’s transgression subjects her to a penalty of death to which King Kavus reluctantly agrees.

    The Prince recognizes his father’s and his own ruin in the situation. With benevolence and pity for his father, he pleads for the life of his stepmother. Although Seyavash has saved her life, Sudabeh vows revenge against him. His future in this court seems doomed.

    This scene begins with the third theme that has been transformed to agitated material for the brass. It is followed by a varied second theme played by piccolo and xylophone. Although there are some references to the second theme in the middle and towards the end, the energetic material from the opening of the scene dominates throughout. In the recapitulation, the opening material is played with great vigor by the whole orchestra, relentlessly racing to the end.

IV. Tormented Loyalties        

Prince Seyavash is triumphant in the war with Turan and demands hostages from King Afrasyab (King of Turan). He promises their safety as long as King Afrasyab does not attack Iran again. Despite his promises, King Kavus orders Seyavash to kill the hostages. The young prince must choose to live in compromise of his honor, under his father, or forsake his family, country and future throne entirely. In his anguish, the Prince chooses to desert his father and his country with a self-imposed exile to Turan. Lonely and vulnerable, he is lured into the open arms of King Afrasyab who assures him that “his blood will never be spilled in Turan.”

    In this movement, the second theme is expanded and varied to express Seyavash’s inner conflict. The brass lines in fifths foreshadow the coming tragedy. The Destiny theme, heard at the climax of the scene, points to a turning point in his life.

V. Seeds of Envy                   

King Afrasyab seizes the opportunity to adopt a great warrior in the form of his enemy’s estranged son. The King’s feeling of jubilation is not shared by his younger brother, Garsivaz. As the King’s heir to the throne, Garsivaz fears his relationship with the King is in danger. During some military exercises, the Prince defeats Garsivaz. Feeling humiliated and angry, Garsivaz begins plotting the downfall of Seyavash.

    This time, the second theme is transformed to convey a playful and humorous mood. Even the ever-evolving first theme (Destiny) contributes to the light-hearted atmosphere in a pizzicato passage played by the strings. There are comic sounds and laughter that indicate the Prince’s tenuous position in the new court and the formation of seeds of envy by Garsivaz. Some of the woodwind solos in this scene evoke movements that are reminiscent of eyebrow and head gestures in Persian dance.

VI. Idylic Love                     

The Prince has fallen in love with the King’s daughter. In Princess Farangis, the Prince finds spiritual purity and an idyllic love. With the blessing of King Afrasyab, the young lovers are united in marriage. For the time being, Prince Seyavash has found happiness.

    While the sixth scene shares many musical ideas with the second, it has one important difference: it is void of suspense, anxiety and self doubt. This scene is all about a pure love affair and Seyavash’s happiness. In the middle of the scene, the second theme is played softly by the violins with great affection, portraying a love duet. The final section is a repeating quasi-Persian folk tune by the strings, evoking Seyavash’s desire to prolong his happiness.

    Noel Dupuis and Kathryn Beasley (Seyavash and Farangis) in the love duet (6th scene)
    Nashvillle Ballet, Photo: Marianne Leach
VII. Prophecy Fulfilled        

While the King is pleased with this union, it has only made Garsivaz more fearful of his place in the court and has strengthened his resolve to destroy the Prince. Garsivaz plants doubt about Seyavash in the King’s mind: Prince Seyavash is not all he appears. Playing upon the King’s fear of his arch enemy, King Kavus, Garsivaz leads him to believe that the Prince is secretly conspiring with his father against him.

    King Afrasyab is engulfed by doubt, not knowing whether to believe his brother and lifetime confidant or Prince Seyavash. The King comes to believe Garsivaz. Fearing for his own future, he acts swiftly in heated rage and cowardice. King Afrasyab orders Prince Seyavash put to death. According to folk legend, red tulips are believed to have been spawned from Seyavash’s blood. Ever since, red tulips have been synonymous with Seyavash’s blood in Persian culture.

    The Destiny theme (transformed to a funeral march) trumpets the upcoming tragedy. The seventh scene parallels the third with a different ending: It concludes not in glory but in death. In the final slow section (elegy), the melancholic and soul-searching fourth scene is quoted. The brass plays with open fifths and glissandos on semi tones symbolizing the sound of traditional Persian mourning (Taziyeh). The brass also imitates the sound of Deraz Nây (similar to the Alpine horn), an ancient Persian brass instrument that was traditionally used for mourning and hailing heroes. The second theme which is played with a great intensity concludes the ballet.

    The Blood of Seyavash was composed in 1993–94 on a commission from Nashville Ballet and Meet the Composer. It was premiered on September 30, 1994 by Nashville Ballet. The score of The Blood of Seyavash is dedicated to my parents, Badry Shadpour and Eshagh Ranjbaran, and my children, Alina and Armand.


"The Blood of Seyavash is one of the most breathtaking modern story ballets to come along in a long time."
-Lisa A. DuBois, Nashville Banner

-Allen Gimbel, American Record Guide
"Ranjbaran has composed a noble and brilliantly conceived score, spectacularly orchestrated and filled with memorable tunes, meticulous development, and impressive craftsmanship."
-Allen Gimbel, American Record Guide

"The Blood of Seyavash has the qualities of inherent beauty and strong musical structure that make it a satisfying musical entity. It is a rich experience as a ballet, but it is no doubt destined to be equally pleasing as a concert piece alone."
-Henry Arnold, Nashville Scene

"Ranjbaran's music is more classical and romantic in its approach, choosing not to forgo melodies and harmonies for the sake of being groundbreaking. And what melodies! Ranjbaran has managed to create music that is at once an amalgamation of romantic poetry,which is the essence of Iranian culture with the epic sweep of its spirit, and all of that in the framework of western classical music,which in the end only serves to make the piece more coherent and beautiful. The perfect mixture of the old and the new, the east and the west."
-Shahriar Zayyani, Shahrvand (Toronto)





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