With Ludwig van Beethoven s 250th birth anniversary falling in 2020, music venues around the world prepared to celebrate the birthday of the decade, showing their appreciation for one of the greatest composers of all time. But with the current pandemic, those plans have been largely modified or simply shattered. While putting Beethoven events on hold might be understandable, the same cannot be said of the decision not pursue his birthday celebrations within the coronavirus restrictions. But let us start from the beginning. The marketing campaign of Beethoven s anniversary started as early as early 2019, when many cultural institutions began preparing the audience for the grand celebrations, announcing programmes filled with world-class orchestras and soloists performing Beethoven, releasing teasers of what 2020 would bring to their stages. New York s Carnegie Hall fused its Beethoven plans with its 2019/2020 season and as such beginning the celebrations early. Bonn (Beethoven s birthplace) and Vienna (where he spent most of his life) understandably took the lead, competing over the largest and most impressive programme of concerts, exhibitions, lectures, symposia, tours, even mobile apps. According to one press release, “in a unique cooperative venture, the Federal Republic of Germany, the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Rhine-Sieg District and the City of Bonn have joined forces to set up the Beethoven Jubiläums GmbH (Beethoven Anniversary Society) in order to coordinate this important jubilee and to publicize it beneath the umbrella brand BTHVN2020.” With the slogan “Rediscover Beethoven” BTHVN2020 gave its first press conference on birthday plans as early as in 2016 – four years prior! The programmed included over 300 projects at dozens of venues: concerts, dance events, operas, lectures, theme weeks and festivals. Vienna did not fall behind. The Wiener Symphoniker brought 36 concerts with music by Beethoven to its season at the Wiener Konzerthaus, the State Opera was preparing for a new staging of Leonore (1805), the composer s only opera, while the Theater an der Wien planned on launching its own Beethoven Festival 2020 (February-May), which among many gems would include Fidelio (1806), a more successful revision of Leonore, directed by the Oscar-winning Christoph Waltz. I will not go into further details. Suffice to say that, elsewhere in Europe, America and the world at large, the celebrations were taken just as seriously. I can just picture chocolates with the composer s pensive face engraved on them, souvenirs and paraphernalia, pocket-size recordings of Fur Elise or the Moonlight Sonata. Not only is Beethoven a composer whose musical gems carry enormous value and timeless delights, he is also a figure capable of generating high profits internationally. Mozart s 250th anniversary in 2006, Chopin s 200th in 2009 and, a little less bombastic but bombastic enough, Liszt s 200th in 2011: all were huge, lucrative occasions. All over the world, Beethoven s weight is arguably even greater. In Egypt, the Cairo Symphony Orchestra celebrations started in January with the object of going on uninterrupted till December. According to Ahmed El Saedi, the music director and principal conductor of the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, “Our Beethoven celebratory repertoire includes many interesting works: five piano concerti, nine symphonies, the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives, Fidelio, among others. The celebrations will end with Missa solemnis in D major (a solemn mass), planned for 16 December, the day Beethoven was born.” Fidelio, for which El Saedi was bringing over an international cast including expatriate Egyptians, would ve been the Egypt premiere. But none of it was to happen. Together with the entire music industry, Beethoven fell prey to Covid-19, and the famed four notes opening Symphony no 5, a fate motif (a term based on a bogus story that has nonetheless persisted) began to ring in my ears. El Saedi is but one among thousands bemoaning the way Covid-19 cut the birthday season short: “During the first weeks of the year, we managed to perform all five piano concerti, fused with non-Beethoven programming elements. We also performed Symphonies number 1 and 2. In March we had only one rehearsal for the Eroica, when we heard about the general shutdown of all cultural activities.” He hopes to make up for lost time once musical activities reopen. And shockwaves notwithstanding, only days into the closure, musicians from all over the world resurfaced online. Individual musicians played for their followers on social media. Ensembles used technology to play together, adding a new perspective to creative possibilities. Cultural institutions began to share their archives, others offered some of their work for a limited time. Valiantly, as it seems, the Theater an der Wien – where Christoph Waltz s Fidelio was ready – made it available on medici.tv and ARTE Concert (both of which require a subscription) for the first 10 days of April. In short, musicians and music programmers found ways past the shutdown. How come Beethoven was left out? That is certainly the case judging by any web search – with a number of interesting exceptions. The Liszt Academy in Budapest celebrated with two concerts on their YouTube channel: Symphony no. 6 “Pastorale” (recorded in December 2018) and Symphony no. 9 (recorded this February). Deutsche Welle Radio has used its YouTube channel DW Classical Music to release “Best of Beethoven”, a series on the composer, together with concerts. The initiative began months before the pandemic, but it came in handy when live concerts were cancelled all over the world. Closer to home Emirati musicians performed Ode to Joy from Symphony no. 9, in a YouTube video. It may not have been the best performance of the famous piece, but they deserve credit for the thought. Egypt s Ministry of Culture launched the “Stay at Home: Culture in Your Hands” initiative on YouTube, bringing theatre performances, concerts and other cultural events to the audience. In March, the ministry posted a concert by the Paris-based, internationally renowned Egyptian pianist Ramzi Yassa playing Beethoven s piano concerto no. 5 in E-flat major, Emperor, with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra. However, no mention was made of the work s name or the anniversary celebrations inside the video or in its description and the front cover poster reveals some details which are almost illegible. The need for Beethoven concerts is a function not only of expectations but of money. Artists will not be compensated, and organisers will not profit if the enormous financial investments that have been made do not pay off. The BTHVN2020 found its own solution to the situation announcing that “celebrations in honour of Ludwig van Beethoven s 250th birthday will continue until September 2021. This will allow the creative potential of BTHVN2020 to continue to unfold, despite the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.” The BTHVN2020 s strategy is to postpone events. Meanwhile, however, I was hoping to see some online – and yes, free of charge. It would have said something, demonstrated something. “There is little holding me back from ending my own life. It is only art that keeps me going,” Beethoven is known to have said while spending time in a health resort in Heiligenstadt in 1802, trying to deal with his progressing deafness. I am not sure how the Beethoven birthday situation can fit into this claim. Beethoven as art did not keep the pandemic from ending cultural life, but is archival, even fragmentary participation too much to ask? Then again, Beethoven himself would probably not have cared for our materialistic world. It is doubtful whether, in response to Covid-19 and its aftermath, he would even have given us his trademark look of scorn.
Humor, hope, resistance, enthusiasm... This is what emerges from the Mask Mania 2020, a creative initiative launched recently by the cultural association ARAC for Art and Culture. The initiative invites artists to reinvent the masks that we find ourselves obliged to wear in order to protect ourselves from the pandemic. The masks that were transformed by the artists are displayed on ARAC s Facebook page. The project s creator and founder of ARAC Ashraf Reda created a work which he titled The Alphabet of History. He covered the mask with vibrant colours of the rainbow, reflecting the diversity that characterises humanity, adding old Egyptian motifs (pharaonic, Islamic, Coptic, etc.) to the design. He also invented a new Arabic alphabet, painting miniature letters based on elements from Egyptian heritage: pyramids, minarets, fish, and waves stand out on the surface of the mask. In addition, three female artists – Shery Elbeyaa, Hanaa Amin and Randa Fouad – opted for joyful colours to lighten these difficult times. Fatma Hassan painted black and white roses on her mask titled Samra (brunette). She comments on her work by saying, "I opted for black and white because it goes hand in hand with the crisis. The shades of grey give the work a cloudy effect; we are in the dark as it is today. However, I never lose hope of getting to the end of this epidemic." She adds that as she worked on the mask with a very fine brush, she had to deal with the cramped surface which limited her. Hosni Abou Bakr defies the narrow surface, but also the folds forming the mask. On the mask, he draws his mouth, his moustache and his beard. When he wears it, you cannot really see the difference between the mask and his facial features, hence a natural effect which allows the artist not to feel disguised or hooded. “The world lives in the phobia of masks. Mine breaks with this idea; you don t need to worry or comply completely with the constraints of isolation. My mask does not only seek to protect me, but also to free me from constraints, and to entertain me,” Abou Bakr underlines. "Don t let the mask hide your smile," says painter and stylist Niha Hetta, who drew a broad smile on her mask, showing all of her teeth. Her lips are highlighted in red acrylic. "Smiling is one of the most effective ways to increase positive vibes around us and overcome hardship," she says. Cartoonist Yasser Gaessa is inspired by van Gogh, doomed to unhappiness and loneliness. He uses his mask as canvas for wheat fields and flowering orchards, believing that this is a way to generate positive energy. Reda Abdel-Rahman went a step further by creating a video installation using the motion design technique and graphic design work. The protagonist of the video is the artist himself, wearing a different mask for each new image. All of the images are accompanied by mysterious music, expressing unease in the face of confinement. In it we find images of a flower mask, another in the form of a dollar bill or a children s toy, etc. "These are the objects that I have at home, in the United States, the country where I currently reside. Humanity everywhere lives in existential anguish. Neither money nor American nationality can be used. This is the time when man has to think about his life differently," Reda Abdel-Rahman comments on his work. "The initiative has received quite a bit interest from the artists," Ashraf Reda reveals, adding that "several designers and ready-to-wear store owners contacted me to market the masks shared on the ARAC Facebook page. But I prefer to be patient in order to guarantee intellectual property rights. I believe that in Egypt, like everywhere else in the world, we should expect a massive change in cultural and social fashions after the deconfinement. The mask may become part of our clothing accessories." And once the pandemic is over, Reda hopes to organise a large exhibition in the gallery of the Cairo Opera House. "It will probably not be until next June. I hope to be able to display all the masks, in the form of a huge mural, and raise the following questions: how has the coronavirus crisis changed the world? Where are we going? And how do you use art to cheer people up?"
English Premier League football club Manchester City commented on the appearance of one of its jersey s in the Egyptian Ramadan series “Al-Prince” (The Prince), saying “It s not our ethics.” The actor Mohamed Diab, who plays the role of “Kutkut” in the series, wears one of the club s jersey s while trying to kill the series hero “Radwan Al-Prince,” played by actor and rapper Mohamed Ramadan. The club wrote on its official Arabic-language Twitter account on Sunday: “It is not our ethics, Diab.” Diab responded to the tweet soon after, saying, “But this is Kutkut s ethics,” and indicated that it is nothing more than acting. Al-Prince — which has a large viewership in Egypt and the Arab world — is a social drama that chronicles the life of Al-Prince family, especially Radwan Al-Prince who, following the death of his parents, finds himself involved with his family members as he looks after them and tries to guide them through life. However, a conflict arises among the family members over the inheritance of the deceased parent, which causes the siblings to attempt to kill Radwan. The series is written and directed by Mohamed Samy, and produced by Synergy Production Company. The show also stars Rogena, Eman El Assy, Nour, Naglaa Badr, Donia Abd Elaziz, Ahmed Zaher, Edward, Abdel Rahman Abu Zahra, Safa Toukhi, and others. Al-Prince airs on DMC at 7:45 pm and on DMC Drama at 11:30 pm.
American jazz singer Melody Gardot is inviting musicians around the world to play along digitally on her new album to overcome the solitude and financial strain of coronavirus lockdowns. For the song “From Paris with Love” on her new album, Gardot is asking orchestra musicians worldwide - strings, woodwinds or harp - to contribute remotely by playing along to a score and a backing track. Producers will assemble the performances into what she calls a “digital global orchestra” to make it sound as if all musicians are playing together in the same room. The chosen musicians will be paid professional studio rates and royalties will be donated to charities benefiting healthcare workers. Confined in her home in Paris, Gardot had been set to record part of her new album with the London Symphony Orchestra just before a Europe-wide coronavirus lockdown put an end to all music production. For the video clip of the song, Gardot has invited fans to contribute short video portraits of themselves from wherever they are in the world with a sign “From (their city) with Love”. “We all worry about contagion now, but a smile is one of the contagious issues that I would like to have,” Gardot told Reuters. “It can make us feel a little more connected despite what is going on. We cannot touch each other, we cannot travel, this is kind of a postcard,” she said. Participating musicians will receive instructions on how to record and film themselves performing the piece at home and can file their contributions till May 18 at midnight. Gardot, who sells more records in Europe than in the United States and is very popular in France, is one of many musicians worldwide who have tried to break the barriers of lockdown by using social media for live or recorded performances. The Grammy-nominated singer said the lockdown had knocked her out of her rhythm of constant touring, often playing several days a week, 11 months a year, but she said the isolation had been relatively bearable compared to being in hospital for a year after being knocked off her bike by a car when she was 19. “(the lockdown) is heartbreaking in a fraternal way, but for myself I have seen rainier days,” she said.
A young Egyptian physician found her way of dealing with the stress associated with her profession while sharing hope and joy with thousands of viewers on her Songraffiti Facebook page. “I always liked drawing and I was always listening to music. One day I thought of drawing what I hear,” pediatrician Nada Salah Amer shares with Ahram Online the beginning of her journey in what was yet to become one of the most popular Facebook pages of the past couple of years, where art is inspired by songs. Amer s page Songraffiti, a portmanteau of the words song and graffiti , has garnered over 200,000 members, with a large number interacting with the artist virtually. Songraffiti on Instagram has almost 20,000 members. The idea of the page is to take songs, their music and lyrics and transfer the feeling into illustrations. As the page s description reveals "it is like making music, only in a different way," one that is visible to our sight. At times, however, Amer also draws inspiration from chosen scenes in well-known films. “Drawing has always been my hobby, something I enjoy and that takes me away from the daily stress of my profession,” she comments on a unique connection she created between songs and her passion for drawing. The first drawing published on Songraffiti was created when Amer was listening to My Baby You by Marc Anthony. “I just felt this sudden inspiration, something that came from the lyrics which says you re the reason I feel so alive ,” Amer reveals. Then came other drawings, inspired by other songs, all of which Amer was sharing on Songraffiti. As she reveals, she wants to embed her drawings with hidden message, those that are coming from the songs. Within a few months since its founding in early 2015, the page s community expanded far beyond the young physician s friends. As the interaction increased, the members began placing their requests for drawings reflecting their favourite songs. The artwork by Amer has also developed, moving from simple drawings to graphic design and more recently to a bit of animation. As Amer reveals, her main aim is to spread joy through Songraffiti, hence the yellow colour which symbolises hope and happiness is the page s theme. The repertoire of Amer s songs has no borders. On her page we will find Western pop songs as well as many well-known compositions from the Arab world. The big breakthrough and a big increase in the page s followers came in December 2019, when Amer made a drawing inspired by one of the well-known Arabic classics, the song Mawood by Abdel-Halim Hafez. Among the most popular drawings is also one representing El Sohab (Friends), a 2018 song by Zap Tharwat and Sary Hany featuring Hamza Namira. Amer capitalised on the idea underlined by the lyrics that point to good friends being like family. The drawing shows two fingerprints of different people placed close together. “We are brothers, not just friends. The only difference between us is in the way we look,” Amer adds a verse from the song in her drawing. Most of the art-music pieces are upon the request of the page s fans. As the number of requests increases, Amer says that she tries to schedule all of them as to be able to respond to the many fans she has gained. She does not reject any music genre, as her drawings reflect on songs by hundreds of Arab and international singers: From Um Kalthoum, Fairouz, Massar Egbari band, Egyptian Project, Amr Diab, Mohamed Hamaki to Sia, Coldplay, Enrique Iglesias and many others. With the outbreak of coronavirus, one of the recent drawings created by Amer is to an older song by Medhat Saleh Zay Ma Heya (Take It As It Is) which references those making sacrifices for other people. Amer uses the lyrics to transpose the idea on the white soldiers, the doctors who are at the frontline of the struggle with pandemic. The idea of COVID-19 keeps returning in Amer s works as she often looks to the songs released in the past and finding in them a verse that could serve as an inspiration or a comment to the current situation. During the Ramadan, Amer also launched a daily puzzle for the fans presenting a drawing and asking them to guess the song it is inspired by. The winners of each riddle then can place a request for another drawing. The success of Songraffiti led to an exhibition of Amer s works which was in October 2019 at the Wosdom Hall of El-Sawy Culturewheel. In an online interview, Amer revealed that most recently she got a request to create t-shirts with her drawings. She explained that she has not started this project for profit but just to share joy; however, she might consider studying the t-shirts option.
Egyptian star Adel Emam is the highest paid actor in Ramadan television series this year, earning EGP 40 million for his role in Valentino, Al-Ahram daily reported. The comedy drama is directed by the actor s son Ramy Emam and written by Ayman Bahgat Qamar. Second on the list of the highest-paid actors comes Mohamed Ramadan, scoring EGP 18 million for his role in The Prince series. The social drama is written and directed by Mohamed Sami with co-stars Ahmed Zaher, Nour, and Rojina, among others. Amir Karara, starring in the series The Choice, was offered EGP 11 million. Other best earners include Yasser Galal who recieved EGP 9 million for his role in The Ruffian (El-Fettewa), while Yusra was offered EGP 8 million for starring inThe Betrayal of Ahd series. Nelly Karim is reportedly paid EGP 7 million for her role in With 100 Faces, and Yasmine Abdel-Aziz was offered EGP 5 million for Why Fall in Love Again? The two protagonists of television series Omar and Diab, namely Ali Rabie and Mostafa Khater, were offered EGP 3 million each, according to Al-Ahram report.
Playing on the wording of the famous Egyptian proverb “convivial times are priceless” Hassan El-Geretly, prominent director of El-Warsha theatre troupe, surprises his audience with a new performance that plays on a timeless enchanting element: voice. From 14 to 18 May at 9pm, El-Warsha shall play their new series of well recorded sound material on their Facebook page. “Confinement times is the first of El-Warsha s audio digital broadcast on our Facebook page that will include storytelling, folk songs and a five-minute interview with one of El-Warsha s special figures,” El-Geretly said. Being one, if not the first, Egyptian independent theatre troupe, El-Warsha succeeded for over 30 years in reviving, safeguarding and passing on folk-arts for generations. Stories that lived for tens of years, epics and monologues that were illustrated in theatres in the twenties are all very much alive and side by side with new ones that are as authentic. Over the past 30 years, El-Warsha has stood as the perfect example of “safeguarding intangible heritage” and passing it on to future generations. How are they able to maintain during confinement is quite interesting. “We d stopped all collective rehearsals, limited them to occasional one-on-one with masks and Shabrawishi bottles (famous local cologne high on alcohol that serves as a disinfectant) and the rest is done online.” Being a radio addict himself, El-Geretly confesses that online rehearsals brought the sound effect back in the limelight. Their radio series that starts off this Thursday on their Facebook book page, shall show a wrap-up of their famous “Warsha Nights” that started off in the early nineties. “Like the music halls of the twenties with various performances that have continued in form but changed in content of the vernacular Egyptian Culture from Epic of BeniHelal to Tahrir songs, and shadow plays from middle ages to stick fighting," explained El-Geretly to Ahram Online, adding that throughout the years, El-Warsha has been building on their own research, and hence operated their own form in their own right repertoire. “During the revolution I saw a graffiti saying “times of confinement are priceless” and I used it as the name of the series to highlight the silverlining of every cloud, in confinement we are discovering all ways of communicating that allowed us to explore new means of exchanging ideas and meeting. I train online three storytellers everyday and I am consulting online on a project in Minya with the Jesuit brothers,” he concluded.
Chairperson the Egyptian Travel Agents Association s Electronic Tourism Committee Mohamed Farouk on Tuesday said that resuming domestic tourism in Egypt using “safe paths” would be a step towards bringing back tourism amid the coronavirus outbreak. Farouk added that foreign tourism is not likely to resume for at least another two years. He noted that some countries have already begun negotiations over the resumption of tourism, starting with what they are calling “safe paths” — health standards and guidelines for receiving tourists. These standards are meant to be tested first on domestic tourism, then on regional tourism, and finally, on international tourism. The Egyptian government, Farouk said, should therefore communicate with Arab countries including Jordan, Lebanon and the countries of the Arab Gulf to apply “safe paths” guidelines to flights, and to accommodations in resorts and hotels. Frouk also revealed that Egypt will participate in the virtual edition of the global event, Arab Travel Market, in June in the UAE as part of the digital transformation worldwide.
“We were in the middle of final rehearsals for Zorba ballet… The soloists were ready and corps de ballet almost ready. It was 9 March, I remember, as we were working on affilage [fine tuning] in the Cairo Opera s main rehearsal room, when we heard that all cultural activities were put on hold,” Erminia Kamel, artistic director of the Cairo Opera Ballet Company tells Ahram Online. Kamel was referring to Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly s decision to put off large gatherings until further notice, a part of precautionary measures the government has adopted to stop the spread of the coronavirus. As follows, all artistic events were called off. It has already been two months since Egypt s only national ballet company froze its activities, joining scores of international troupes and artists which suspended work due to the shutdown of all cultural bodies. The company had rich plans before the end of the season in summer. A guaranteed audience magnet and the company s masterpiece, throughout the years Zorba has become one of the most successful elements of the Egyptian troupe s repertoire. Adapted from the novel Zorba the Greek written by Nikos Kazantzakis, the ballet is staged to music by Mikis Theodorakis, while the company bases its performance on the choreography of Lorca Massine. “All the dancers were very excited about staging Zorba again. This time, we were putting a new cast in the role of Zorba and other characters. In parallel, we were also working on El-Leila El-Kebira (The Grand Night), a ballet based on a famous operetta,” Kamel reveals, adding that the troupe was readying for its first big tour in Oman. “We were supposed to stage a few evenings at the Cairo Opera House and then head to the Royal Opera House in Muscat. It was a big thing as we were not just participating in a larger event; we were the event itself. It was the first time for the company with over 50 dancers to be invited to stage evenings of Zorba and El-Leila El-Kebira in Oman, in a series of performances. We spent one year preparing for this tour.” Cairo performances were cancelled and the Oman tour followed the same destiny. Disappointed dancers left the rehearsal room to which they have not returned to date. The June performance of Giselle in Cairo, yet another ballet loved by Egyptian audiences, had to be called off. Time froze and today, two months into the general lockdown of all cultural activities, Kamel only hopes that the situation will not continue for much longer. “The dancers are eager to get back to the stage and resume the artistic activities; they want to work, rehearse and perform,” she comments. “Many dancers exercise at home by themselves; some of them follow classes online provided by institutions such as the Bolshoi Theatre, the Royal Ballet Company etc. The dancers can still do some training individually, but they do not have an ability to rehearse in duets or groups and this is a very important component of their work. Not only do classes keep the dancers in good shape, but also rehearsing and performing on the stage, in front of the audience, motivates them,” she explains, pointing to the latter factors as essential elements allowing the dancers to improve and shape their careers. "Rehearsals and performances are imperative to the development of the soloists as well as the corps de ballet." Topped with Ramadan and fasting, keeping dancers in shape is difficult. “Usually during Ramadan, we would work with the soloists before the Iftar and with the whole company after Iftar, but now, even that is not possible.” Kamel recalls the general suspension of activities that happened following the January Revolution, pointing out, however, that back then the company s work stopped for three weeks before the rehearsals resumed. “Now the whole situation is unknown. We do not know how long it will last. The information we receive changes every day, the numbers of cases infected with COVID-19 keep growing... Definitely we are a bit scared, as are all other companies around the world,” she explains. “Thankfully, our dancers are protected by the Cairo Opera House, they receive their salaries. This is a great privilege in comparison to many artists around the world who find themselves in serious financial troubles these days,” Kamel says, adding, however, that artistically the situation created by the coronavirus and the lockdown is “a disaster.” “I try to remain positive though as we will be back sooner or later, a thought we share with Magdy Saber, the chairman of the Cairo Opera House. Resuming work might be a challenge though. I am aware that it might not be a fully fledged opening, that it might be difficult to stage a full ballet, for instance,” Kamel said, explaining that any ballet performance requires at least 40 dancers, often large groups on the stage. For example, the Cleopatra ballet requires work by the complete company, over 60 dancers. Opting for a large work might not be feasible, at least not at the beginning of a possible return. “If, or rather when, we return, we can begin by staging something different. I am thinking about working on something new, based on a known piece of music. The choreography would have to rely on a small number of dancers on stage, and without requiring proximity between them.” And while thinking aloud, Kamel keeps pondering about the safety of the artists, yet swiftly adds that “all this might not be really feasible on an artistic level. But we have to start thinking from now. I also find it hard to imagine the Cairo Opera s hall not fully filled with the audience, something we are used to. We will see how everything develops and do our best to adapt.” Kamel also had bigger plans for the upcoming season, the realisation of which strongly depends on the situation of the pandemic and measures implemented by the Ministry of Culture and the whole government. “I ve made some plans, but I have not even discussed them with Dr. Magdy Saber yet. Should the circumstances allow, I would love to restage Cleopatra ballet, giving it a bit of an artistic face-lift, possibly adjusting the work s duration. It needs some minor touches,” Kamel said. Set to music by Mohamed Saad Basha and choreography by José Perez, ballet Cleopatra premiered in 2019 at the Cairo Opera House. “By the end of each year, around Christmas time, we always perform Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky s The Nutcracker, so this will stay in the next season s repertoire. I also hope to work on The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, to be performed at the end of January and the beginning of February 2021,” Kamel tells, adding that the next season will also include ballet Don Quixote. “Those are all preliminary plans. We were supposed to hold meetings with the opera s chairman in March to finalise everything, but due to the unexpected circumstances in which we all found ourselves, everything has been put on hold,” Kamel concludes.
The organisers of Revart Film Festival (RFF), Egypt s first vertical film festival, have revealed a list of 10 films that made it to the final selection of the festival and will be judged by the festival s jury. The first of its kind in Egypt, the festival takes place entirely online, on RFF s Facebook and Instagram platforms. The selection consists of films shot by mobile phone or any camera in vertical aspect ratio, filmed entirely at home with duration less than three minutes. The final films include Anxiety Attack by Anas Awad, Two Weeks by Amin Esmail, Dakhal El-Haramy by Farah Noweir, The Call by Mina Maher and Mina Nader, Void by Reem Ossama, Today s Society by Farida Mabrouk, Nice to Meet You by Marianne Magdy, Mid-Night by Ebram Gergis, The Box by Ahmed Al-Ramad and Limbo by Ahmed Samir. The films were made available for viewing for 48 hours only, following the announcement 4 May. The jury panel — comprising DOP and director Ahmad El-Morsy; scriptwriter and actor Tamer Habib; and actor and director Ahmed Magdy — will now decide on the winner of the festival. The results wil be announced Friday, 15 May, at 10pm, with Golden, Silver and Bronze Best Film awards, with each being awarded a trophy and a certificate. In addition, the jury will also reveal a winner of the Audience Film Award, which is calculated based on audience votes on both Facebook and Instagram. Being the first vertical film festival held in Egypt, the Revart Film Festival aims to introduce Egyptian and Arab filmmakers to a new and modern storytelling style, believing that it is playing an important role in shaping the film industry. The festival also held a online interactive masterclasses hosted by renowned Egyptian filmmakers. The festival s first edition is held in collaboration with MAD Solutions, an Egyptian promotional and distribution company.
A new genetic analysis of the virus that causes Covid-19 taken from more than 7,600 patients around the world shows it has been circulating in people since late last year, and must have spread extremely quickly after the first infection. Researchers in Britain looked at mutations in the virus and found evidence of quick spread, but no evidence the virus is becoming more easily transmitted or more likely to cause serious disease. "The virus is changing, but this in itself does not mean it s getting worse," genetics researcher Francois Balloux of the University College London Genetics Institute told CNN. Balloux and colleagues pulled viral sequences from a giant global database that scientists around the world are using to share data. They looked at samples taken at different times and from different places, and said they indicate that the virus first started infecting people at the end of last year. "This rules out any scenario that assumes SARSCoV-2 may have been in circulation long before it was identified, and hence have already infected large proportions of the population," Balloux s team wrote in their report, published in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution. That is one piece of bad news. Some doctors had hoped the virus was circulating for many months and may have quietly infected many more people than has been reported. That would offer the hope that there might be some immunity already built up in some populations. "Everyone was hoping for that. I was too," Balloux said. Their findings pour cold water on such an idea. At the most, 10% of the global population has been exposed to the virus, Balloux estimated. Between humans and bats Many different studies have shown that the new coronavirus, often called SARS-CoV-2 by scientists, originated in a bat but had to have infected another animal before it jumped into humans. The first human cases were reported in Wuhan, China, last December. Viruses make mistakes every time they replicate themselves, and these mutations can be used as what s called a molecular clock to track a virus through time and geography. "Our results are in line with previous estimates and point to all sequences sharing a common ancestor towards the end of 2019, supporting this as the period when SARS-CoV-2 jumped into its human host," the team wrote. "It s very recent," Balloux said. "We are really, really, really confident that the host jump happened late last year." That s because viral samples taken from all corners of the globe show multiple mutations, and they are similar mutations. "Everything is everywhere," the team wrote. "It has been introduced and introduced and introduced in almost all countries," Balloux added. They also found genetic evidence that supports suspicions the virus was infecting people in Europe, the US and elsewhere weeks or even months before the first official cases were reported in January and February. It will be impossible to find the "first" patient in any country, Balloux said. "All these ideas about trying to find a Patient Zero are pointless because there are so many patient zeros," he said. Balloux s team s findings were reviewed by other experts, a process called peer review, before they were published in the journal. He said some reports by other teams, published online in what are called pre-print websites, may have drawn incorrect conclusions. "All viruses naturally mutate. Mutations in themselves are not a bad thing and there is nothing to suggest SARS-CoV-2 is mutating faster or slower than expected. So far we cannot say whether SARS-CoV-2 is becoming more or less lethal and contagious," Balloux said. Lane Warmbrod is an analyst at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who has been tracking the reports on the genetics of the new coronavirus. She said more studies are needed in animals to demonstrate how changes in the genetics of the virus could make it more or less infectious or pathogenic. "Just because these studies tell us these mutations are quickly spreading or becoming dominant doesn t mean anything except we know it happened. It doesn t actually tell us anything about what s happening biologically," Warmbrod told CNN. Reports about mutations can be important for teams working on drugs and vaccines to fight the coronavirus. Vaccines, especially, need to target parts of the virus that are conserved -- that do not change much over time.
The British Council in Egypt has made its digital library available for free online starting Tuesday until September 1, after closing its doors amid the coronavirus outbreak. Users must first register their data at the council s website to view the library s online collection of books, newspapers, magazines, dramas, musical concerts, electronic and audio books. Membership is only available to those over 18 years of age. One of the most popular libraries in Egypt, the British Council provides English learners with free materials to improve their language skills. The Director of the British Council in Egypt Elizabeth White said, “During these difficult times, we want to continue connecting Egyptians with the best British knowledge and resources, and we see that the future of the UK depends on people from multi cultures who work and live together based on education, mutual understanding, respect and trust.”
Egypt s website Nowhere Online Music Platform, simply known as Platform, has announced a call to all Arab musicians – whether residents of an Arab country or beyond the region – to participate in Music from Here - Special edition: Time out music album. One of the many interesting projects managed by the Platform since its launch in 2014, the new music album aims at showcasing work created by the artists who stay at home while continuing to make music. According to the announcement, the Platform hopes to “discover musical works produced by Arab musicians and their partners around the world, using different production techniques inside their homes and with different production possibilities. We do not aim to provide musical works that talk directly about the ban or infections or even Covid-19 around the world.” The aim is to collect productions that see creative technical contribution prompted by the unique time we are going through. Platform adds that the chosen works will be archived for future reference. “The unusual circumstances we are going through those days directed the musicians to thinking outside the box. They add new layers of creative ideas to their compositions,” founder and manager of Platform, Emad Mabrouk, comments to Ahram Online on the practices pursued by the musicians from their homes or home studios. “For instance, we see a lot of interesting cooperation: musicians join hands online, defying spatial and even geographical borders, and performing together. There is a lot of creative experimentation going on, on both the musical and technical levels,” Mabrouk notes. He goes on to point to a variety of tools used by the musicians, most of them being low budget, and allowing them to compose, arrange, record, broadcast or live-stream their work. The creativity is in fact two-fold, as it applies to music production, as well as creating the visuals should the musician choose a video format. When the latter component is in use, the visuals reach even more creative technical solutions, not only by embellishing the musical representation but also through finding novel visual ways of connecting the performers through the internet. As Mabrouk explains, “since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the musicians – and all artists – turned to technology available on hand, inside their homes. While exploring its possibilities they began operating with tools and effects which they might not have even considered prior to the general lockdown.” Indeed, necessity is the mother of invention. As is mentioned in the Platform s call, “This situation called for opening up a greater horizon for artists around the world to test new tools that allow the continuation of the artistic experience through the only safe medium available now, the internet.” Mabrouk agrees that despite the economic hardships experienced by the whole art scene, “it is a very creative time. In fact, I notice that this unique creativity began appearing as early as the beginning of 2020 and was only emphasised during the lockdown.” Not only is the Music from Here - Special edition album a project that aims to collect interesting musical products created during these times, but it is also an opportunity to document our streams of thought on a creative level, one that was triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. All Arab bands and solo musicians representing all music genres are welcome to apply to be part of the new album. The applicants can submit their works between 5 May and 5 June through this application form. To read more about the call and how to apply, visit Platform s Facebook Page. Good quality works will be uploaded on the Platform s website for everyone to listen to them. In the first selection, 30 tracks chosen based on the highest interaction of the listeners will be announced on 15 June. Final selection will be done by a committee of music specialists, who will choose 10 tracks that will make it to the Music from Here album. "I m very happy with the large response we have already received. Even prior to providing links to applications, our announcement was viewed in the tens of thousands and shared abundantly by the musicians and music lovers," Mabrouk concludes with a high dose of optimism, adding that he looks forward to many interesting music works coming from the field. The Music from Here album project is supported by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, a body which has already cooperated with Platform in some of their previous musical endeavours. Founded in 2014 by Emad Mabrouk, the Nowhere Online Music Platform aims to create a central point for all the young and aspiring musical talents. Among their reservoir, we find bands such as Almena, Hawas, and Hageen among other bands which came to light in the past few years. Platform also collaborates with many well-established musicians. Among other unique activities held by the Platform were online concerts which took place a few years ago, featuring artists such as Shereen Abdo and Nour Ashour, among others. The initiative was revived by the end of 2019, featuring artists like Adham El-Habashy, Mizology, Ahmed Hamady, and Huda Asfour. As Mabrouk states, the coronavirus lockdown and online concerts came just at the time when the Platform was returning to this practice. Platform cooperated with Massar Egbari in their live-streamed concert which took place on 24 March. It was the first such performance by an Egyptian band held right after the general lockdown was put in place. The last few months proved extremely dynamic for Platform and its founder Mabrouk, the fruits of which we are already noticing on the Platform s website. Originally a filmmaker and film researcher, Mabrouk s portfolio includes working at the Jesuit Cultural Centre in Alexandria and at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina s film department, and he is now focusing on Platform s new projects and the music.
Netflix has signed a deal with Tunisian actress Hend Sabry to broadcast a new drama-comedy series produced by Sabry s company SALAM Production, slated for a 2021 release. Details on the series remain sparse. Netflix chose Sabry and 54 other global stars as part of the UN project “Because She Watched”. The project comes to celebrate International Women s Day and provides a host of female-oriented series, documentaries and movies featuring names such as Sophia Loren, Salma Hayek, Yalitza Aparicio, Miley Bobby Brown, Lori-Nan Engler, Lana Condor, Petra Costa and Ava DuVernay. Born in 1979 in Tunisia, Sabry lives and works in Egypt as both an actress and lawyer. She was chosen as an ambassador against hunger by the UN World Food Program and was listed by the Arabian Business magazine as among the “100 most powerful Arab women” in 2013. Sabry also made history as the first ever Arab woman to be a judge on the prestigious Venice Film Festival. The acclaimed actress revealed the big news on her official Instagram account back in 2019: “I am proud to be one of the jury members of the Venice Film Festival and I also feel proud that veteran directors Emir Kustrica and Antoinette Liowill be the jury presidents.” “I also am happy that this announcement coincides with the release of my movie The Blue Elephant 2 which achieved huge success across the Arab world,” she added. Sabry was previously elected as one of the jury board members for the twelfth edition of the Dubai International Film Festival, according to The Tunisian Monitor Online. The actress launched her acting career in 1994 with the Tunisian film “Samt al-Qosour” (The Silence of The Palaces) while her second Tunisian movie came with “The Season of Men” (2000), according to The National. Thriving in Egyptian cinema, Sabry starred in “Mozakrat Morahka” (The Diaries of a Teenager) alongside Egyptian actor Ahmed Ezz, directed by Inas al-Digheidy. Across her various roles in films such as “The Yacoubian building” (2006) and “Banat wist al-Balad” (2005), Sabry shone light on the pressures and issues that Arab women face, with one acclaimed example being her role in “Asmaa” (2011). Her company SALAM Production s first film was “The Flower of Aleppo” (2016) which received several awards and was directed by Reda al-Bahy.
"In celebration of International Jazz Day on 30 April, a special jazzy edition was devised, comprising of five full jazz albums on both Anghami and Spotify, as well as a diverse selection of online, video extracts of AFAC-supported music festival concerts," Arab Fund for Arts and Culure (AFAC) write introducing the line-up of the fifth week of the Screens and Streams iitiative. The fund has released a selection of music by Lebanese Donna Khalifé, Husam Aliwat, Ahmed Nazmy as well as trio Yacine Boularès, Vincent Segal, Nasheet Waits, among numerous other artists on Spotify and Anghami. Other releases include Palestine s Mahrajazz Alternative Jazz Festival preented with a series of videos uploaded in two collections: Collection no 1, and Collection no. 2. The Global Week for Syria that featured numerous jazz musicians in 2015 can be viewed here in addition to Jazz for Syria featuring Dick de Graaf. AFAC also directs us to Visa for Music with two videos: DENDRI - Stambeli Movement and The Tune band. Last but not least is a concert by Faraj Suleiman during the Festival Arabesques. Apart of music, AFAC has also released a series of films Birds of September by Sarah Francis, As If We Were Catching a Cobra by Hala Al-Abdallah, Checks and Balances by Malek Bensmail, Emwas..Restoring Memories by Dima Abu Ghoush, The Mulberry House by Sara Ishaq (film available for 3 days only – from May 4 to 6), Roshmia by Salim Abu Jabal (film available for one day only on May 4)and A Maid for Each by Maher Abi Samra (film available for one day only on May 5). The dance and theatre performances feature “Hip Hop Gees” by Amir Sabra, “The Second Copy by Youness Atbane, Glass by Oussama Ghanam, “Silsilah#5” by Rezodanse and Above Zero by Osama Halal (Koon Theater). To access the films, dance and theatre, check AFAC s website here. The releases will be available until 6 May. The selection of works is part of AFAC s Screens and Streams initiative which releases chosen films and music works which the fund has been supporting over the 14 years of its activities across the Arab region. The selection of films and music are refreshed on weekly basis.
A celebratory tribute to the musical compositions of Andrew Lloyd Webber, performed at London s famed Royal Albert Hall, will be available to watch online starting Friday 2 May at 7pm on the YouTube channel The Shows Must Go On. The screening of the concert will be available globally for 48 hours from 2 May, 7pm UK time, 2pm ET, 11am PT. The celebration, which took place in 1998 on the occasion of Lloyd Webber s 50th anniversary, featured many stars performing some of Lloyd Webber s most renowned productions, such as Starlight Express, Evita, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, and more. The famed cast included names such as Tina Arena, Michael Ball, Antonio Banderas, Sarah Brightman, Marcus Lovett, Donny Osmond, Elaine Paige, Kiri Te Kanawa, Bonnie Tyler, Boyzone band, and others. Every Friday, The Shows Must Go On channel screens Lloyd Webber musicals in an initiative that aims to bring culture to audiences confined to their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic. The free broadcasts on YouTube are part of a collaboration between the composer s Really Useful Group and Universal. The channel has already screened the musicals Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Ends.
The ninth International Jazz Day 2020 will take place on 30 April virtually, and not as previously planned in Cape Town, South Africa. Dozens of international musicians will feature their work through a variety of online platforms announced by the artists. The highlights from the Arab world announced so far are Egypt-based jazz vocalist Michelle Rounds who will live-stream her concert via Amman Jazz Festival s Facebook page at 3pm, Cairo time. Lebanese jazz pianist and award-winning composer Tarek Yamani will give a lecture in Arabic on re-harmonising Arabic Music at 1pm on the jazzday.com website. Yamani s lecture is part of the festival s official line-up of masterclasses panel discussions and children s activities held on the event s website throughout the day. The organisers said "the programme will include a panel hosted by Nate Chinen, director of editorial content for WBGO and chief jazz contributor to NPR Music. The panel will feature artist participants including Grammy award-winning bassist and composer Marcus Miller and legendary South African vocalist Sibongile Khumalo. A live audience will be able to submit questions throughout the session." The day will culminate with a global concert hosted by Herbie Hancock and featuring artists from dozens of countries and many continents. Among the names revealed in the line-up are John McLaughlin, Jane Monheit, Alune Wade, John Beasley, Ben Williams, Lizz Wright, John Scofield, Igor Butman, Evgeny Pobozhiy, Youn Sun Nah, A Bu, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves and Joey DeFrancesco. The concert s live streaming will begin at 7pm GMT (3pm US Eastern time) on jazzday.com website. According to the organisers, the International Jazz Day "brings together countries and communities worldwide annually on 30 April to celebrate jazz and highlight music s important role in encouraging dialogue, combating discrimination and promoting human dignity. International Jazz Day has become a global movement reaching more than two billion people annually on all seven continents, including Antarctica, through education programmes, performances, community outreach, radio, television and streaming, along with electronic, print and social media."
agab says, "I have decided to visit you every Tuesday to tell you a variety of stories from our beautiful heritage. Tell me if you like them." Ragab s storytelling is part of the These Are Stories (Dee Hawadeet) launched by DX Media, a new digital platform which promises in its brief to create content that will include stories about "the strong classical tradition and work practices of the founders but infused with modern media tools, skills and forms," with topics touching on "history, football, drama, music and nostalgia." On 26 April, DX Media launch its activities with a short episode of Dee Hawadeet presenting the history of Fawazeer Ramadan narrated by Mohamed Hatem to script by Mohamed Al Waziri. Ragab s stories will be a new series on the same channel, with the actor presenting his own stories about the country s heritage. Born in 1950, Sayed Ragab has become one of the best-known Egyptian film actors. He began his acting career in theatre, where he still occasionally performs, while his film career launched with Small Dreams ( Ahlam Saghira ), a 1993 film directed by Khaled El-Hagar and starring Mervat Amin and Salah El-Saadani. His unique talent, theatre and onscreen character helped Ragab move fast from secondary to leading roles, becoming one of the most sought-after actors of his generation. Ragab continued to collaborate with El-Hagar, including in his award-winning 2011 film Longing (El-Shou ), to which Ragab wrote the script and acted alongside Sawsan Badr. Ragab appeared in many other movies and television series collaborating with well-known directors and actors. His most recent works include acting in the short film Habib (2019), feature film Sons of Rizk 2 (2019), television series Nasr El-Saeed (2018) and Crossroads (2020).
The World Health Organization (WHO) last month launched an official Android, iOS and online app called “WHO COVID-19” to keep people informed during the coronavirus pandemic and to combat misinformation, tech blog 9to5Google reported. The new app, which contains news, tips and alerts, was originally proposed by a team of volunteer experts calling themselves the “WHO COVID App Collective.” The team consists of former Google and Microsoft employees, as well as WHO advisors and ambassadors, and other industry experts. The WHO app is open source, and primarily consists of the same COVID-19-related advice found in the organization s recently released WhatsApp chatbot. The “WHO COVID-19” app offers alerts and notifications specific to users locations, as well as the potential for “self-triage” tools that could help diagnose whether symptoms match those of COVID-19. The app has received a massive user interface overhaul, providing facts and tips about how to protect yourself during the coronavirus pandemic. In the WHO s COVID-19 app users can also find the latest information on the number of global cases and related deaths as reported to the World Health Organization. More importantly, the app also includes a link to donate to the WHO s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The group also has ambitions to have those who have been directly affected by COVID-19 to give the WHO their Android or iPhone location history in an effort to perform “contact tracing” and thus gain better understand the spread of the virus. However, given obvious privacy concerns regarding sharing in-depth location history, it remains to be seen whether this feature will actually launch. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020. On February 11, 2020, the WHO announced a name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID-19. The international community has asked for US$675 million to help protect states with weaker health systems as part of its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. The COVID-19 pandemic has already affected more than 2.4 million people, killing over 160,000. It is taking a huge toll on families, societies, health systems and economies around the world, and for as long as this virus threatens any country, the entire world is at risk.
Six dancers from the Dutch National Ballet headed out into the empty streets of Amsterdam this week to perform their parts in a piece of choreography inspired by the coronavirus lockdown. Each put on a solo performance out in the open, some in front of landmarks including the Amstel Hotel and the Eye film museum. Footage of each piece will be edited together into a film titled “Gently Quiet” that will be streamed online by early May, the National Ballet said. “I like this project as we can show what we want to do and what we are waiting for to do again,” said 25-year old dancer Yvonne Slingerland, who performed her piece beside the Amstel river on Friday. “Even if we are in this weird situation we are still moving and we are still trying to get to the audience. I think art right now is really important for everyone.” All bars, restaurants, museums and other public places have been shut in the Netherlands since March 15 in an attempt to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. The National Ballet has cancelled all its performances until June 1 and stopped its dancers from rehearsing together. Many have resorted to practicing at home. “This is our way of bringing a poetic production, despite not being able to work together in our studio or to perform in front of an audience”, National Ballet spokesman Richard Heideman said.
The Church of St. Mark in Alexandria is the oldest church in Egypt and Africa, dating back to the first century. It was built at the place of the house of St. Anianus who was the first to believe in Christ by St. Mark s preaching. It also contains about 55 of the first patriarchs of the Coptic Church. Father Abram Emil, Priest of St. Mark s Cathedral in Alexandria explained in his article The Church of St. Mark