Why Thumbprint?


From our Leadership Team:

“We want to tell stories that empower and uplift. Thumbprint does this beautifully, because Mukhtar Mai chose to advocate for her life. Her continued fight for justice for all women serves as a beacon of hope for those who find themselves in impossible situations."

An opera about a woman who changed the world. 


Here are five of the many reasons why you won't want to miss Thumbprint:

1. Women's right are human rights.

Mukhtar Mai is striving for justice and safety today—and her story is about resilience and courage in building a better future for everyone. While Mukhtar's real-life story includes surviving sexual violence, the opera expresses this experience in Mukhtar's life in an abstract scene that contextualizes the violence as a catalyst for activism, healing, and transformation—rather than centering the violence. Mukhtar is an inspiring real-life hero, and this opera can resonate deeply with those who are fighting for safety in their choices and their bodies, and those who are inspired by restorative justice and brave activism. If you have questions or concerns about the depiction of violence and survival in this opera, our team is here to help answer any questions you might have.

"They also could easily have been turned into the worst kind of operatic cliché, or the neatly packaged survivor-of-the-week stories that dominate pop culture narratives. Thumbprint is, instead, a streamlined and powerful music drama, affecting exactly because it is, mostly, a direct and focused narrative that trusts the audience to see, hear and understand exactly what is going on and what it all means." George Grella, New York Classical Review

Mukhtar published her autobiography "In the name of honor", her story was the subject of three documentary films, "Shame" by Mohammed Naqvi in 2006 (available on Showtime), "Land, Gold and Women" by Michelle Gagnon in 2006, and "After the Rape" by Catherine Ulmer in 2008 (available on Kanopy).

2. The power of authorship.

This is a opera about Mukhtar's story. The libretto was created based on a series of interviews with her, after the publication of her autobiography, In the Name of Honor. Composer Kamala Sankaram, librettist Susan Yankowitz, conductor Maria Badstue, and director Omer Ben Seadia are holding space for this story as women in a field (opera) that is still predominantly male, and dominated by patriarchal authorship and power.  

3. This music.

This is a opera about Mukhtar's story. The libretto was created based on a series of interviews with her, after the publication of her autobiography, In the Name of Honor. Composer Kamala Sankaram, librettist Susan Yankowitz, conductor Maria Badstue, and director Omer Ben Seadia are holding space for this story as women in a field (opera) that is still predominantly male, and dominated by patriarchal authorship and power.    

3. This ensemble.

Join us in welcoming more artists to Portland and the Portland Opera stage! Samina Aslam (Mukhtar Mai) is a Pakistani-American soprano, praised by the Boston Musical Intelligencer for her "velvet tone that can build to a powerful clarion." She leads an ensemble of incredible singers, each making their Portland Opera debut. Explore more about our cast here. 

5. The dream of this opera.

The dream at the center of this opera is real, and inspiring. After fighting for justice and receiving compensation in 2003, Mukhtar Mai opened a school in her community: enrolling herself and two other students in one room of her family house. Mukhtar Mai Girl’s Model School grew to provide free education, books, supplies, and uniforms to over 550 girls and boys from nursery school to grade 10, and today is the foundation for the work of the Mukhtar Mai Women’s Organization.

Get tickets to Thumbprint.


Want to learn more? Mukhtar Mai published her autobiography "In the name of honor," and her story was the subject of three documentary films: "Shame" by Mohammed Naqvi in 2006 (available on Showtime), "Land, Gold and Women" by Michelle Gagnon in 2006, and "After the Rape" by Catherine Ulmer in 2008 (available on Kanopy).