If you can imagine the painting, "Liberty Leading the People," springing to life, you can get some idea of the galvanizing impact the singer Marzieh made on a largely Iranian audience Saturday at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. And why the current regime in Iran regards her as dangerous.
At 71, Marzieh is already a musical icon, having embodied the spirit of Persian classical songs for more than 50 years. But with her defection in 1994, after 15 years first of government- and then self-imposed silence in opposition to the mullahs, she upped the ante by joining the Moujahedeen Khalq, a leftist resistance group. So the concert, her first in the United States, became a political as well as a musical event.
Security was tight. Everyone had to pass through metal detectors, which delayed the program about 45 minutes.
Marzieh entered to tremendous applause, which redoubled when she kissed one of the Iranian flags at the side of the stage. At the break, when people carried flowers to her, one man knelt and kissed her hand, as did a young violinist when she distributed the flowers to the orchestra.
Marzieh often looked austere and imposing, but the years vanished when she smiled or sang of a young woman's longing. To a Western ear, her throaty mezzo ranged from the urgent expressivity of a flamenco singer, not yet in vocal tatters, to a more lyric lightness.
Her colleagues included Shapour Bastan-Siar, who led the orchestra with self-effacing authority; and Hamid-Reza Taherzadeh (playing Tar) and Kamyar Izadpanah (Santoor), who both offered virtuoso solo work.