Enhance Your Experience

Music, Reading & Resources

Opera Parallèle presents

Sophia’s Forest

Music by Lembit Beecher

Libretto by Hannah Moscovitch

Please enjoy these resources to enhance your experience of Sophia’s Forest. The opera explores the lasting effects on families of the immigrant experience, and the ways in which children use their imaginations to cope with trauma and find healing. This selection of materials from a diverse range of creators, all explore this theme in their own way.


'Who Am I, Without Exile?' By Mahmoud Darwish

Who Am I, Without Exile?

A stranger on the riverbank, like the river … water
binds me to your name. Nothing brings me back from my faraway
to my palm tree: not peace and not war. Nothing
makes me enter the gospels. Not
a thing … nothing sparkles from the shore of ebb
and flow between the Euphrates and the Nile. Nothing
makes me descend from the pharaoh’s boats. Nothing
carries me or makes me carry an idea: not longing
and not promise. What will I do? What
will I do without exile, and a long night
that stares at the water?
binds me
to your name …
Nothing takes me from the butterflies of my dreams
to my reality: not dust and not fire. What
will I do without roses from Samarkand? What
will I do in a theater that burnishes the singers with its lunar
stones? Our weight has become light like our houses
in the faraway winds. We have become two friends of the strange
creatures in the clouds … and we are now loosened
from the gravity of identity’s land. What will we do … what
will we do without exile, and a long night
that stares at the water?
binds me
to your name …
There’s nothing left of me but you, and nothing left of you
but me, the stranger massaging his stranger’s thigh: O
stranger! what will we do with what is left to us
of calm … and of a snooze between two myths?
And nothing carries us: not the road and not the house.
Was this road always like this, from the start,
or did our dreams find a mare on the hill
among the Mongol horses and exchange us for it?
And what will we do?
will we do
Mahmoud Darwish, “Who Am I, Without Exile?” from The Butterfly’s Burden. Copyright © 2008 by Mahmoud Darwish, English translation by Fady Joudah.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. www.coppercanyonpress.org

'The Immigrant's Song' by Tishani Doshi

The Immigrant’s Song

Let us not speak of those days
when coffee beans filled the morning
with hope, when our mothers’ headscarves
hung like white flags on washing lines.
Let us not speak of the long arms of sky
that used to cradle us at dusk.
And the baobabs—let us not trace
the shape of their leaves in our dreams,
or yearn for the noise of those nameless birds
that sang and died in the church’s eaves.
Let us not speak of men,
stolen from their beds at night.
Let us not say the word
Let us not remember the first smell of rain.
Instead, let us speak of our lives now—
the gates and bridges and stores.
And when we break bread
in cafés and at kitchen tables
with our new brothers,
let us not burden them with stories
of war or abandonment.
Let us not name our old friends
who are unravelling like fairy tales
in the forests of the dead.
Naming them will not bring them back.
Let us stay here, and wait for the future
to arrive, for grandchildren to speak
in forked tongues about the country
we once came from.
Tell us about it, they might ask.
And you might consider telling them
of the sky and the coffee beans,
the small white houses and dusty streets.
You might set your memory afloat
like a paper boat down a river.
You might pray that the paper
whispers your story to the water,
that the water sings it to the trees,
that the trees howl and howl
it to the leaves. If you keep still
and do not speak, you might hear
your whole life fill the world
until the wind is the only word.
Tishani Doshi, “The Immigrant’s Song” from Everything Begins Elsewhere. Copyright © 2013 by Tishani Doshi.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.


'Wie lange Noch?' by Kurt Weill

Written after Weill had settled in Paris having escaped the rising Nazi power. He finally ended up in the US and, in 1944, composed the new version of the song to be played behind enemy lines.

'Piano Concerto No.3 in E Major' by Bela Bartok

Composed in the final months of his life following his migration to the US from Hungary after WWII

'Bombs Turn into Roses' by Maya Youssef

'The war started in my homeland in 2011. From that point on making music was no longer a choice, it was a crucial means to express and come to terms with intense feelings of loss and sadness from seeing my people suffer and my homeland destroyed.'

'Nostalgia' - by Ma Sicong from 'Inner Mongolia Suite'

Panel conversation

OP partnered with Grace Cathedral to present this panel conversation exploring the lasting effects of the immigrant experience on families and the ways children use their imaginations to cope with trauma and find healing. Featuring composer Lembit Beecher, Neuroscientist and Director Indre Viskontas, and refugee advocate and leader in the Afghan diaspora Malaak Malikyar Sills via the Islamic Networks Group – ING, in conversation with Dean Malcolm Clemens Young.

Resource organizations

Composer created instruments & Sound Art



The SF Refugee, Assylee, & Immigrant Forum

  • Click for more information.
Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay

Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay

Wide ranging support services for Refugees & Immigrants in the East Bay

  • Click for more information.
The LGBT Asylum Project

The LGBT Asylum Project

The LGBT Asylum Project is the only San Francisco nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to providing accessible legal representation for LGBT asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution due to their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or HIV status.

  • Click for more information.
Catholic Charities SF

Catholic Charities SF

Center for Immigration Legal & Support Services

  • Click for more information.

Björk - 'Biophilia - Moon'

Sara Bouchard - 'Breathe, River'

Nick Cave - 'Soundsuits'

Harry Partch - 'Delusion of the Fury'

Books For ADults

Books for All Ages

Non-Fiction Books

The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Malala's Magic Pencil

by Malala Yousafzai

  • Click to hear the book read aloud.
American Street

American Street

by Ibi Zoboi


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The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer

by Viet Thanh Nguyen

  • Click for more information.
Once I Was You

Once I Was You

by María Hinojosa

  • Click for more information.