Roumi appears on the balcony of the palace, dressed in a flowing, full-skirted white dress and a glittering jacket embroidered with gold thread. (The Daily Star/Press Photo Agency, HO)
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The atmosphere at the Ottoman-era palace of Beiteddine was festive Thursday evening, a far cry from the tension that has gripped the country in the wake of last week's spate of bombings. Two hours before Lebanon's beloved diva Majida El Roumi took to the stage, eager concertgoers were already queuing at the entrance, shopping for locally made soap in a startling range of hues and reaching up to snag plastic glasses of wine from the trays jerkily swaying above their heads, supported by two men on towering stilts. Live video footage relayed on two big screens flanking the stage showed close-ups of the statuesque singer, before panning over the crowd and zooming in on the empty presidential chair facing the stage, beside which hung the Lebanese flag.When Roumi performed her newest work, "The Freedom Hymn," a patriotic song arranged by Selim Assaf using lyrics based on a poem by renowned Lebanese poet Talal Haidar, the cameras zoomed in to show Druze leader MP Walid Joumblatt clapping merrily along in the front row.Festival director Hala Chahine told The Daily Star before the concert that Roumi was invited to perform in part as a response to recent unrest in the country. In spite of the troubling security situation, Chahine said that the festival is determined to keep going.
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