On 14 December, Egypt lost one of its all-time iconic opera figures, tenor Hassan Kamy. Mr Kamy died at 82. He was also famous as an actor and a skilled businessman.
Kamy descended from the Alawite family that ruled Egypt as monarchs from 1805 till 1953. He was born in Cairo on 2 November 1936, and went to the Jesuit school. He obtained a law degree from Cairo University, and joined the Cairo Conservatoire once it opened in the 1950s, continuing with higher studies in Italy.
Kamy started his singing career in 1963 as Redames in Verdi’s Aida on the stage of Cairo’s Khedivial Opera House which burned down in a tragic fire in 1971. He performed in some 240 operas around the world, in Russia, Poland, France, Denmark, Japan, Korea, and the US. In the 1990s, he acted as artistic director of Cairo’s new opera house which was built by the Japanese on a grant from Japan’s government in 1988.
Kamy’s singing won him International acclaim, including the third Global Award in operatic singing from Italy in 1969, the fourth Global Award in 1973, and an award from Japan in 1976. He also received the first prize at the Olympic Music Festival in Seoul, South Korea in 1988.
Among Kamy’s most important achievements in the opera world was his organisation of the biggest performance of Aida at the foot of the Giza Pyramids in September 1987. A first at that splendid site, the event saw the participation of 1,600 performers on a stage built especially for the purpose, measuring 4,300 square metres. The opera was performed on eight consecutive evenings, attracting 27,000 spectators. The following year, Kamy organised another Aida performance, this time at Luxor’s legendary Hatshepsut Temple.
In 1977, Kamy played his first cinema role in Nader Galal’s romantic comedy “Gunoun al-Hubb” (The Craze of Love). He also performed on TV drama and on the theatre where his genial presence earned him the love of audiences. His last role in film was in the 2015 “Qudraat Gheir Adiya” (Abnormal Capabilities).
Kamy was an owner and manager of Cairo’s L’Orientalist bookshop, a small space filled with old and rare books, maps and photographs. His wife, Nagwa Kamy, was among the important figures at L’Orientalist; her sudden death in 2012 devastated him.
Kamy’s last work on the Egyptian music scene was his spearheading the first classical music festival in Egypt, the “Manial Palace Festival: Reviving Heritage Through Music,” which took place from 1 to 9 November. It helped that he was chairman of the board of the Friends of Manial Palace Association; the palace was built in the early 1900s by Prince Abbas Hilmy, grandson of Abbas Hilmy II, the last Khedive of Egypt, and uncle of King Farouk, Egypt’s monarch from 1936 to 1952.
Egypt’s Culture Minister Ines Abdel-Dayem feelingly mourned Kamy, saying that the arts scene in Egypt lost one of its pillars, whose contribution to opera and drama was be memorable. She said Kamy will always be warmly remembered for his genial , tolerant nature; he was a godfather to many young opera singers on whom he lavished care, guidance, and advice.
16 December 2018