Othello in the Seraglio: The Tragedy of Sümbül the Black Eunuch

  • Thursday, February 27, 2020 / 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM (PST)
  • Pollock Theater
  • Screening Format: High-resolution Quicktime (105 Minutes)
  • With Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol (composer)
  • Script by Robert Labaree

Othello in the Seraglio: The Tragedy of Sümbül the Black Eunuch, a uniquely powerful “coffeehouse opera,” retells the age-old story of passionate love and murderous jealousy, of a black slave in the seventeenth-century Ottoman court who rises to power and riches, only to come to a tragic end. The multi-layered script was adapted from Shakespeare’s Othello and its source texts, and written by music historian Robert Labaree. The score, by Grammy-nominated composer Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol, is a stunning tapestry woven of Italian Baroque and Turkish sections alongside Sanlıkol’s own newly-composed music. Othello is performed on traditional European and Turkish instruments by an ensemble of twelve musicians, singers, and a dramatic storyteller.

This event featured a high-definition cinematic restaging of the opera. Composer Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol joined moderator Abdulhamit Arvas (Theater and Dance, UCSB) for a post-screening discussion. This event is presented in conjunction with the Early Modern Center conference “Queer Crossings, Unruly Locales 1500-1800.”



Composer Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol

Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol is a Grammy-nominated composer. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in April 2016, premiering his commissioned piece Harabat/The Intoxicated. Other recent works have been heard at Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, Jordan Hall and on A Far Cry string orchestra’s recording Dreams and Prayers. He hails from Cyprus and Turkey, and is a jazz pianist, a multi-instrumentalist, a singer, and an ethnomusicologist, as well as a full-time faculty member at New England Conservatory. Sanlıkol was a recipient of The Aaron Copland Fund for Music Performance Program Grant in 2016 with his unique jazz orchestra/combo Whatsnext?. The Boston Globe noted that Sanlıkol’s “music is colorful, fanciful, full of rhythmic life, and full of feeling. The multiculturalism is not touristy, but rather sophisticated, informed, internalized; Sanlıkol is a citizen of the world.”

A musical polymath, Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol has composed for, performed and toured with international stars and ensembles such as Dave Liebman, Bob Brookmeyer, Billy Cobham, Gil Goldstein, Anat Cohen, Esperanza Spalding, Antonio Sanchez, Tiger Okoshi, The Boston Camerata, The Boston Cello Quartet, A Far Cry string orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Okay Temiz, Erkan Oğur and Brenna MacCrimmon. He studied western classical piano with his mother Fethiye Sanlıkol and started giving piano recitals as early as age five in Turkey. In 1992, he studied with the internationally-acclaimed Turkish composer/pianist Aydın Esen and won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Composition from the New England Conservatory. Sanlıkol is the president of DÜNYA, a musicians’ collective dedicated to contemporary presentations of Turkish traditions, alone and in interaction with other world traditions, through musical performance, publication, and educational activities. Sanlıkol is also the director of New England Conservatory’s Intercultural Institute. His book The Musician Mehters (2011), about the organization and the music of the Ottoman Janissary Bands, was published in English by The ISIS press and in Turkish by Yapı Kredi Yayınları.


Moderator Abdulhamit Arvas

Abdulhamit Arvas is Assistant Professor of Theater at UCSB. Trained in the field of early modern literature and culture, Arvas specializes in the global Renaissance, Shakespeare, dramatic literature, the history of sexuality, queer theory, and race studies. His current book project, tentatively titled Beautiful Boys of the Renaissance: Travelling Sexualities and Homoerotics of Difference in Anglo-Ottoman Encounters, 1500-1650, explores early modern English and Ottoman sexualities on and off stage with a focus on cross-cultural encounters, abductions, and conversions in the Mediterranean during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. His most recent publications include “Global Shakespeares, Affective Histories, Cultural Memories” (co-authored, Shakespeare Survey), “Queers In-Between: Globalizing Sexualities, Local Resistances” (The Postcolonial World), “From The Pervert Back to The Beloved: Homosexuality and Ottoman Literary History, 1453-1923” (The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature), and “Ecoerotic Imaginations in Early Modernity: An Eco-Queer Reading of Margaret Cavendish” (New International Voices in Ecocriticism), as well as book reviews for Renaissance QuarterlyJournal of American Studies in Turkey, and GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. He is the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship, an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship, the SSHRC Early Modern Conversions Fellowship at the University of Cambridge, and the Folger Shakespeare Library Research Fellowship.

 This event is sponsored by the Carsey-Wolf Center, the Department of Theater and Dance, and the UCSB Early Modern Center.

CWC Global

Media are global by nature; they express culture just as much as they transcend borders. The CWC Global series is dedicated to showcasing media from around the world. This series features screenings and events that place UCSB in conversation with international media makers and global contexts across our deeply connected world.