2 January 2011
With the Christmas and New Year season in full swing, the Cairo Opera House (COH) has been pitching in with its customary concerts and celebration. The Cairo and Alexandria opera houses hosted events of a rich repertoire of Christmas carols, concerts, and solo performances, as well as music and ballet from famous international opera groups.
A special concert was held in the COH’s Small Hall last Friday by the students of the Talents Development Centre Concert (Christmas Concert). The audience was treated to some of the loveliest Christmas songs, including Silent Night, White Christmas, Santa Clause, Silver Bells, and Jingle Bells.
The Talent Development Centre has been established by the COH with the aim of offering gifted children in all branches of arts the opportunity to learn, train and hone their talents at the hands of a group of the best experts in their fields.
Also in the Small Hall at the COH, trumpet player Mohamed Helmy and pianist Hisham Galal last Wednesday presented a recital of the most popular Christmas songs played to tunes arranged to the music genres of the 1960s. The recital was nostalgic in that it called to mind the heyday of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, sending shivers of thrill through the spines of members of the audience who had lived their youthful years in the 1960s.
Christmas tree for many peoples
Not Christians alone celebrated Christmas. In a stunning performance at the 16th century Mamluk palace of Qubbat al-Ghouri in Cairo, today used as creativity centre, Rissaalet Salam (Message of Peace) group was joined by the groups of Samaa Sufi chanting, the Coptic Choir, Indonesian religious chanting, Acapella music, and Gregorian chants group in presenting Christmas Tree. The concert, which was held last Sunday, was the brainchild of Intissar Abdel-Fattah who also directed the performance.
Egyptian soprano Nevine Allouba performed at the Opera House’s Small Hall, accompanied by bass baritone Ahraf Sweilam and the British Greg Martin on the piano. Another concert featured Mezzo-soprano Gala al-Hadidi with pianist David Hills. Both concerts focused on classic Christmas songs and music.
Allouba graduated from the Cairo Conservatoire with honours, receiving scholarships from the (then) West German Cultural Exchange DAAD and the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, which enabled her to study opera and vocal pedagogy at the Hannover Hochschuke fuer Musik und Theater, where she obtained her doctorate in 1988. Allouba was granted first prize at Berlin’s Young Opera Singers Competition in 1985, and during 1987-1988 was soloist at the Detmold Opera House in Germany.
Hadidi joined the Cairo Opera Company in 2001 at the age of 18. She is currently studying for the M.M. Degree at Yale University under Doris Yarick-Cross. She graduated from the American University in Cairo with a BA in Philosophy in 2005 and a MA in English and Comparative Literature in June 2007. Her Thesis was titled: “ Carmen: Debating the Femme Fatale.” She won several prizes in French and German competitions such as “Jugend musiziert”. Hadidi received a scholarship to attend the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart/Germany in September 2005.
At COH’s Main Hall last weekend, several soloists joined the Cairo Celebration Choir (CCC) and the Cairo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nayer Nagui to perform Christmas carols. It has become an annual tradition for the Cairo Opera Soloists and CCC to perform at Christmas time. As usual the event was sold out. The Cairo Opera Soloists include: Eman Moustafa, Nevine Allouba, Mona Rafla, Jacqueline Rafiq, Dalia Farouk. Ragaa Eldin Abdellatif, Elhamy Amin, and Reda al-Wakil. Two guest singers this year joined the stage, Dina Iskandar and Sobhi Bedair.
Show Dance in Egypt
The French Show Dance group is due to make its debut performance in Egypt this week with daily performances at the Main Hall from 3rd to 9th January. Show Dance’s performance features dance full of emotions, and music spanning the greatest legends of jazz, rock’n roll, rumba, flamenco and salsa. Dance and music re-lives Gene Kelly, and walks the audience from Edith Piaf to Marilyn Monroe, travelling through Broadway musical shows such as West Side Story and Cabaret. Show Dance is a magical trip to the heart of intense emotions.
12 pianists and one piano
On New Year’s Day, an innovative performance took place in the Main Hall where twelve different pianists played classical concertos; all on the same piano. The piano includes 120 keys fit for 24 hands and has been entered into the Guinness Book of Records. The same concert will be performed tomorrow on Sayed Darwish Theatre in Alexandria.
The 12 Pianists are an international piano ensemble with members from Germany, Russia, Japan and Egypt. Naturally, the different nationalities and schools have their influence and contribute to a richer artistic output.
The audience had the chance to listen to rarely-performed compositions, as well as transcriptions of famous works of a classical repertoire, including Ravel’s Bolero, Khatchaturian’s Sabre Dance, Rossini’s Guillaume Tell and Saint-Saens’s Carnival of Animals.
The ensemble’s pianists won numerous prizes at international piano competitions in Japan, the US, the Czech Republic, Italy and Germany.
Last but not least, there can be no Christmas celebration without a share of ballet. It has become customary for the Cairo Opera Ballet Company to perform Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker for Christmas, and this year was no exception; eight performances were presented at the COH’s Main Hall. The events of The Nutcracker take place on Christmas Eve so, understandably, this is the reason that the ballet is usually performed around Christmas time. Choreographed by Pepita, the story line tells of a girl dreaming of a Nutcracker Prince battling against a Mouse King with seven heads. The Nutcracker always serves as lovely Christmas family outing.
The music was written in 1892 by Tchaikovsky, and the first performance of the ballet was held as a double premiere together with Tchaikovsky’s last opera Iolanta on 18 December 1892.