Recent visitors to the Cairo Opera House have been greeted with a brightly lit Christmas tree while Santa Claus stands in the gallery inviting guests to take a photograph with him, as soft Christmas music echoes around.
The traditional Christmas Carols concert at the Main Hall in Cairo was, as usual, sold out well in advance. Conducted by Nayer Nagy, Christmas classics such as We wish you a Merry Christmas, A Child is Born, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Silent Night rang out to a full house and received a standing ovation.
New Year programme
The week preceding New Year saw another performance that has become an Opera classic to herald in the New Year, the ballet The Nutcracker. This again enraptured old and young audiences this year.
The Cairo Opera house has a tradition of surprising its audiences every New Year Eve with a concert the repertoire of which they know only when they’re inside the Main Hall. This year, it was a performance by the Cairo Symphony Orchestra conducted by the Hungarian Ferenc Rózsa with the Hungarian Austrian soprano Nicoleta Radu as soloist.
On the same evening, the Open Air Theatre at the Opera House saw a performance by the ensemble al-Mawlawiya al-Misriya (Egyptian Mawlawiya), founded by the singer Amer al-Touni, present traditional religious and folk chants. The Small Hall hosted a talent show conducted by Sobhy Bedeir, the other Cairo theatres affiliated to the Cairo Opera House featured distinguished shows. The Theatre of Arab Music Institute featured the Abdel-Halim Neweira Ensemble for Arabic Music, and the Gumhouriya Theatre the Emad Hamdy and Friends ensemble.
The Sayed Darwish Theatre in Alexandria (the Alexandria Opera House) and the Damanhour Opera House in the west Delta town of Damanhour, both of which are affiliated to the Cairo Opera House, also held their own New Year performances, a number of which were reruns of performances held in Cairo.
Celebrating Christmas and Mulid
The Sayed Darwish Theatre held a performance that was a joint celebration of Christmas, which Copts celebrate on 7 January, and the al-Mulid al-Nabawi, the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, which this year came on 3 January. The concert featured religious chants by the well-loved singers Ali al-Haggar who is famous for his religious chants and Maher Fayez, famous for his Christian hymns and praises.
The Egyptian-German jazz band Cairo Steps conducted by the German Sebastian Müller took part in the concert. The stunning result was a creative mix between Sufi mystic music and hymns, and Christian hymns. The concert ended with both singers joining in three songs named Lakal-Hamd (Praise and Thanks be to You), Shabeb ala Tarateef Enwani (On Tiptoe) and Duaa’ Lillah (A Prayer to God) to music by the Cairo Steps which included for the first time the Armenian musical instrument the duduk.
According to Cairo Opera House director Ines Abdel-Dayem, the Cairo Opera House has this year presented 871 performances attended by some 700,000 spectators. The shows included 221 concerts at Cairo’s Main Hall in the Opera House, 187 at the Small Hall, 112 at Gumhouria Theatre in Downtown Cairo, 135 at Sayed Darwish Theatre in Alexandria, 100 at the Open Air Theatre of the Cairo Opera, 59 at Damanhur Theatre, and 57 at the Arab Music Institute also in Downtown Cairo.
The Cairo Opera House, Dr Abdel-Dayem said, hosted 12 fine arts exhibitions, six of them at the Salah Taher Hall of Fine Arts and six at the Ziad Bakir Hall. She said that the Cairo Symphony Orchestra this year celebrated its 56th anniversary.
Another Cairo Opera House group, the Egyptian Modern Dance Theatre Company, won the Mahmoud Reda Prize for best choreography in the 7th round of the National Festival for Theatre.
Dr Abdel-Dayem said that, in 2014, a number of young musicians had the chance to book their permanent place to lead concerts or to be part of them as soloists, among them Mustafa Helmy, Ahmed Amer, Alaa Abdel-Salam, Muhammed Ismail al-Mogy, Hazem al-Asabgy, Ihab Abdel-Ghaffar, Ahmed Atef and Mohamed Saad Pasha.
Dayem added that as part of the national role of State institutions to contribute to support the Egyptian economy the Cairo Opera House management decided to hold a monthly concert the proceeds of which would be entirely dedicated to the Long Live Egypt Fund.
4 January 2015