Festivals cancel, relocate amid security upset

File - The Baalbeck International Festival opened on July 30 with a musical dance show by local Assi Al Hallani.

BEIRUT: In response to the events being hailed as Lebanon’s most serious security problems since the onset of the Syrian war – the fierce fighting that broke out Saturday between the Lebanese Army and Nusra Front and ISIS militants – several of Lebanon’s summer festivals have canceled, rescheduled or relocated performances.

The Baalbeck International Festival, which opened July 30 with a musical dance show by Baalbek local Assi Al Hallani, will be shifting the remainder of its concerts to alternative venues due to the security situation, head of the festival committee Nayla de Freije told The Daily Star Thursday.

Last Sunday’s concert by Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu was moved to the Casino du Liban’s theater after the singer requested that she remain close to the country’s international airport. A performance by French actors Gerard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant, scheduled for Aug. 31, will take place at the same location, de Freije confirmed.

She added that a performance by Tunisian singer and oud player Dhafer Youssef, scheduled to take place in Baalbek this Sunday, would be postponed until Aug. 26, when it will be held at Beirut Waterfront’s MusicHall.

“It was because of the security [situation] in Arsal,” she said. “We really made every effort to be in Baalbek. We worked for one year on it. We are really very sad to have to change [things]. But we are happy to have at least [held] the two big shows of Assi in Baalbek, [which] were a real success.”

The final show in this summer’s program, a concert by Lebanese indie singer Tania Saleh scheduled to take place Aug. 22, is likely to be canceled, rather than relocated, de Freije said.

“I think she really wants to be in Baalbek and probably we will leave it for next year,” she explained. “We are discussing the matter with her ... Her dream was to sing in Baalbek and as a festival we really understand that.”

A three-day festival scheduled to take place Aug. 15 to 17 in the village of Qobeiyat in Akkar has also been canceled due to events in Arsal, organizers announced at a news conference Wednesday. Lebanese singers Najwa Karam, Haifa Wehbé and Hallani were due to perform at the festival.

“Because of the current security conditions,” the organizing committee announced in a statement on the festival’s Facebook page, “the difficult ordeal experienced by our country and our solidarity with our heroic forces, as well as to preserve the safety of the audience and shoulder our national responsibilities in full ... we have decided to cancel the Qobeiyat Festival this year.”

A member of the committee told The Daily Star Thursday they hoped to reinstate the festival next summer.

De Freije too said that the Baalbeck Festival committee hopes to successfully hold the festival – which was relocated to La Magnanerie, a 19th century silk factory in Boushrieh-Sadd last year due to security concerns – in Baalbek next summer.

“We hope that things will change from now on,” she said. “We have to be optimistic. We have to really hope every time that the country will be in a better shape, that security will come back and that maybe we will have a total rebirth.”

Ehdeniyat, Batroun and Beirut Holidays organizers said performances would go ahead.

Tamer Husni’s Aug. 2 Beirut Holidays show has been postponed until Aug. 23, though organizers did not confirm the reasons why. Beiteddine organizers, meanwhile, had already rescheduled the Aug. 6 recital by tenor Juan Florez to Dec. 6, relocating the venue to BIEL, in Beirut.

The remaining performances scheduled as part of the festivals in Beiteddine, Byblos and Zouk Mikael are scheduled to go ahead as planned.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 08, 2014, on page 16.




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