Seductively swaying Carmen the Gypsy Danced to a Palestinian Orchestra in Bethlehem

“With our music we represent Palestine. We say out loud the name of the country that many decided to deny its existence. The world thinks we don’t love life, but we do. We love life, music and we serve our country with our instruments.”

By: Malak Hasan

Palestine News & Information Agency – WAFA

BETHLEHEM, April 18, 2013 (WAFA) – Seductively swaying in her red dress wrapped around her slender body and rather dark hair carelessly resting on her pale shoulders, Carmen the Spanish gypsy emerged from Georges Bizet’s 1875 Opera Carmen to dance and sing about love accompanied by the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) orchestra performed in the city of Bethlehem on Saturday.

Once the music began, the audience was captivated in the melodies of the violin, cello, flute, bass and drums played by young Palestinian and international musicians, and the Swiss singers whose voices brought closer the burning story of Carmen and her jealous lover, Don Jose.

Religion, country of origin, or language, all didn’t matter as the audience who was watching Opera Carmen only came for one reason: to witness the power of music in bringing together two different worlds and cultures on one stage.

With the Palestinian red and white kuffiya, the national scarf and head cover, resting on the shoulders of the Swiss St Michel Choir and the black kuffiya on the shoulders of some Palestinian musicians, the act was not only a celebration of the western and eastern harmony, art and music, but an expression of resistance and solidarity with Palestine.

While Carmen sang with her velvety voice, director and choir conductor, Philippe Savoy, explained, his enthusiasm evident, “We chose the red and white scarf because it carries the colors of the Swiss flag.”

The story of Carmen, which was originally written in French, doesn’t relate to the Palestinian people in the sense of the word. It is the story of a young Spanish woman who works in a cigar factory and dies at the hands of her rejected lover.

 Academic director of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, Michele Cantoni, who looked very calm yet eager before the performance, said “the significance of the act is to mainly show the quality of playing, teaching and talents here in Palestine.”

It wasn’t only to present the unique potentials of the young Palestinian musicians who try to live a normal life in abnormal conditions but also, says Cantoni, “to show this picture to those abroad who think Palestinians are different than any other people whereas they have the same kind of humanity, sensitivity and the same kind of capability, but unfortunately a certain kind of propaganda convinced the world that this is not the case.”

It is not always that an opera is performed in Palestine and this is exactly why such an act was well received. Even though the story and the language were foreign, it didn’t stop the audience at the Solomon Pools’ Convention Center from enjoying the fine act.

Nadin Baboun, a violinist with the ESNCM orchestra, said: “Everyone understands the language of the music. You don’t have to be a musician to sense the love, suspense, romance and drama.”

She explained, “With our music we represent Palestine. We say out loud the name of the country that many decided to deny its existence. The world thinks we don’t love life, but we do. We love life, music and we serve our country with our instruments.”

With words sang in broken Arabic, the St Michel choir closed their performance singing “Hadi Ard Jdudi… Filistinu, Filistinu” (This is the land of my ancestors… Palestine, Palestine); asserting in their own artistic way the Palestinian people’s right to live in their homeland and the land of their ancestors.

M.H./M.S.

This article first appeared here 

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