BEIRUT: It seems security tensions in Lebanon and the region are not so serious as to keep well-known international performers from coming to perform at Lebanon’s summer’s festival.
The curtain will open on the 16th edition of the Beiteddine Art Festival June 26, when Lebanese diva Majida al-Roumi will take the princely palace’s main stage. The vocalist is expected to perform a selection from her best-loved tunes, such as “Bakeer Falayt,” “Lebnan” and “Nashid al-Hob,” among other favorites.
More than just a pop culture figure, in her role as U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Roumi has also made numerous public appearances in aid of various humanitarian campaigns. Over the past few years she has performed with such international artists as Spanish tenor Jose Carreras and Senegalese singer-songwriter Youssou N’Dour.
With her 2003 debut album, “The Soul Sessions,” U.K. soul singer Joss Stone was credited in certain circles with having revived soul. Beiteddine will host the singer-songwriter’s first show in Lebanon, providing a perfect opportunity for those who don’t know Stone’s work to discover her groovy and rhythmic voice.
Turkish musician and musical archaeologist Kudsi Erguner will return to the festival to lead a tribute to the masters of historic Sufi music and the muwashahat. He will be accompanied by Waed Bouhassoun, Fawaz Baker and two orchestras, one from Aleppo and the other from Istanbul. Vocalists, nai and oud soloists will mingle to immerse the festival audience into a classical musical tradition even older than the stones of Beiteddine itself.
Beiteddine will host another Lebanon debut with Katie Melua’s July 18 concert. Recipient of 56 platinum awards, the singer-songwriter is among the most prominent young jazz and blues talents on the circuit today. She will perform a repertoire of tunes that propelled her recordings up the charts. Songs like “The Closest Thing to Crazy” and “Nine Million Bicycles” promise to enchant her audience.
The Chouf festival is not afraid of dance, nor tributes to blockbuster movies. This year, on July 25-26, Marseille’s National Ballet Troupe will revisit the story of the unsinkable cruise liner, which James Cameron cashed in on almost 20 years ago. “A Titanic Triumph” is a contemporary dance performance that may well make you wish that you too were sliding into the depths aboard the famous ship.
Another frequent visitor to Beiteddine, Iraqi crooner Kazim al-Saher, will return to the festival for a pair of dates on Aug. 1-2. Described as the “Caesar of Arabic Song,” Saher’s shows have tended to thrill Arabic pop music lovers, and will likely do so again this year.
Award-winning Lebanon-born playwright and director Wajdi Mouawad also returns to Lebanon this summer to stage his adaptation of Sophocle’s “Antigone,” to be staged Aug. 7-9. The play will be given a pop-culture edge thanks to the presence of Bertrand Cantat, lead vocalist of the French rock band Noir Desir, in the cast. This unusual collaboration promises to be a unique theater experience.
Additional facets of this year’s festival include LeBAM Orchestra’s tribute to Zaki Nassif and a visionary installation on the theme of the metamorphosis created by the students of ALBA, the Université De Balamand – Académie Libanaise Des Beaux-Arts.
For several of its recent editions, Beiteddine’s concerts have played out within the context of an exhibition or two.
This year “Al Kawanin wal Manakel” is an exhibition comprised of Mohamad Barakat’s private collection of braziers, which promises to shed light on this item of Arab material culture. In multiple designs, Barakat’s braziers will suggest something of how these items were an integral part of the region’s legacy.
Nearby, “Hidden Treasures of the Higher Chouf” is a photo exhibition featuring work by Eddy Choueiry, Walid Rachid, Alsan Joumblatt and Fadi Baddour, which explores the abandoned heritage sites of the region.
The Beiteddine Art Festival will run from June 26 until Aug. 9. For more information, please visit www.beiteddine.org or call 01-373-430.