Baalbeck Festival organizers mull over change of venue

File - Baalbek’s temples have always been central to festival shows as during Chico and the Gypsies’ June 29, 2012, performance.

BEIRUT: The organizing committee of the Baalbeck International Festival is considering staging its 2013 event in a different venue or venues, due to security concerns. The oldest of Lebanon’s summer festivals, Baalbeck was launched in 1956 by then-President Camille Chamoun, “with the mission of promoting the cultural and touristic life of Lebanon and nurturing an enticing artistic environment of cross-cultural exchange as well as providing the setting for innovative works by local and regional artists and acclaimed international performers.”

Since then the festival has operated as a yearly event, staged at the Roman-era temple complex that abuts the Bekaa Valley town lends the festival its name.

Responding to off-the-record inquiries about how the organizing committee has been coping with the uncertain security situation around the festival venue, an organizer confided that, given the events in Hermel, Arsal and the Bekaa Valley generally, it did not seem feasible to stage Baalbeck at its usual location.

Baalbeck Festival is a national institution, the organizer pointed out, and many figures must be consulted before such a decision can be made. There is also the question of what alternative venues could be used to stage the performances, he continued, pointing out that the festival’s acts have been chosen with the Baalbek venue in mind.

Lebanon’s security concerns have affected Baalbeck before, however, and there is some precedent for relocating the event.

The festival was not staged during the country’s 1975-1990 Civil War. Israeli attacks on Lebanon in July-August 2006 again disrupted the staging of performances at Baalbek in 2006-7.

The festival did hold three sold-out performances of the Rahbani Brothers’ musical comedy “Sah al-Nom” in December 2006, featuring the iconic vocalist Fairouz.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 20, 2013, on page 16.




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