The Empty Voice Secondary Title

In 701 B.C. the Assyrian empire was in its ascendancy. It had already vanquished the kingdom of Israel to the north including the capital at Samaria. It then prepared an assault on Judah and its capital at Jerusalem.

But in one of those significant events that changes the course of world history, Assyria was repelled. Jerusalem was saved until 586 B.C. when the Babylonians sacked the city, forcing its leadership class into exile.

Henry Aubin, in a major feat of scholarship, determines that Jerusalem was aided by a Kushite army from Africa which had marched northeast from the Nile valley. While the Bible attributes the Assyrian retreat to an angel and secular commentators cite pestilence, Aubin, in a meticulously documented work, demonstrates that an alliance with the African nation of Kush bolstered Jerusalem’s defences.

Kush, also known as Nubia, was located in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. A monarchy that existed for more than 1000 years, from 900 B.C. to A.D. 350, Kushites held sway over Egypt from 712 B.C. to about 660 B.C. Of Egypt’s 31 dynasties, this, the 25th Dynasty, is the only one that all scholars agree, was black.

The commander of the Kushite expeditionary force was Taharqa (or as the Bible calls him Tirhakah). This Kushite prince, who had his own interests in halting Assyrian expansion, likely caught the aggressors by surprise as they prepared their siege of Jerusalem.

Aubin offers a thrilling military history and a stirring political analysis of the ancient world. He also sees the event as influential over the centuries.

The Kushite rescue of the Hebrew kingdom of Judah enabled the fragile, war-ravaged state to endure, to nurse itself back to economic and demographic health, and allowed the Hebrew religion, Yahwism, to evolve within the next several centuries into Judaism. Thus emerged the monotheistic trunk supporting Christianity and Islam.


Leon Major’s 2006 production of The Barber of Seville was a highlight of 2006 season at Glimmerglass opera festival.  He has been Artistic Advisor to Cleveland Opera and Artistic Director of Boston Lyric Opera (from 1998 – 2003). He has directed opera and theatre throughout the Americas and Europe for companies that include: New York City Opera, San Diego Opera, Vancouver Opera, Teatro Municipale (Rio di Janeiro), The Opera Company of Philadelphia, Florentine Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Washington Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, the Canadian Opera Company and The Opera Festival of New Jersey.  Productions have included: MacbethFalstaffIntermezzoDon PasqualeThe Aspern PapersIl Barbiere di SevillaL’Italiana in AlgeriThe Merry Wives of WindsorIntermezzoSalome, Don CarlosResurrectionAidaDon GiovanniSalome (co-produced with Glimmerglass Opera), Roméo et JulietteLa traviataL’elisir d’amore and Carmen (on the Boston Common).

Amadeus Press World 2011

The Empty Voice

Acting Opera

For opera lovers, theatre-goers, teachers and students of creative writing, and anyone interested in literature and dramatic structure…

Opera is not only voice, says Leon Major. “Composers write complex and detailed musical scores that are grounded in stories of passion and conflict, suffering and joy, forgiveness and despair. It takes place in the theater, not in a concert hall.”

The story, and therefore, the acting are crucial to the theatrical experience, almost as important as voice.

Opera has had explosive growth in North America in the last 20 years, in ways that it always has been popular in many European countries. One reason is that the story on which the opera is based is more accessible thanks to surtitles, translations of the opera’s words which are projected on a screen above the stage. We can follow the action, without having to sit there with a score and libretto or studying a translation for three days ahead of time

Leon Major, who has spent a lifetime in the theater, helps us find the dramatic action of the opera by using key scenes from some of the world’s best-loved operas. Witty, anecdotal, even gossipy, he brings us opera from the inside out, showing us how the director works with musicians, singers, and designers. 

Leon Major  is founder and artistic director of The Maryland Opera Studio for the University of Maryland, College Park, where he has directed many productions including operas by Handel, Monteverdi, and Mozart.  He has also taught in Tel Aviv, Mexico City and Shanghai, as well as in the United States and Canada.

Michael Laing is an education policy consultant and writer who has always loved opera, but who never thought it was more than a collection of greatest hits until he started working with Leon.

Click here to hear Leon Major on his new opera about boxer Joe Louis, The Shadow Boxer: