I was chatting last night at DCMM-2011 to Karim Wasfi, conductor, director general and cello soloist of the Iraq National Symphony Orchestra. He regenerated the orchestra under government auspices in 2004 and played on through car bombs and other horrors, telling the players that they were the nation’s hope of normality.
Musicians often came late, held up at barricades or scenes of outrage, but rehearsals started on time and proceeded regardless. The worst, said Karim, was when the power wnent down for three days and the morgue across the road wafted across sickening smells of decomposing bodies.
And the music played on.
Today, the INSO has 140 musicians and gives two classical concerts a month.
Another happy encounter was with Maria Arnaout, general director of the Damascus Opera House. She produces two operas a year and a stage musical. The last was Oliver! with real-life orphans from a state institution. Fagin was sung by a member of a heavy metal band.
picture: Damascus Opera House
Syrian Actors Elias Ailaneh (Right), And Elie Halabi Performing Respectively In The Roles Of Oliver Twist And The Artful Dodger In The Musical ‘Oliver’ At The Opera House In Damascus. (AFP)