Egypt, Cairo Opera House can dream again

President Abdel Dayem, foreigners back, no freedom yet

04 December, 16:04

    Opera House in Cairo Opera House in Cairo

    (by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) - ROME - Slowly, not without signs of fatigue and concern, the art world in Egypt is returning to dream.

    ''Cohabiting with terrorism and attacks is difficult, but we are now used to it. What has changed is our state of mind. Now we are talking about seasons and future programs'', said Ines Abdel Dayem, president of Cairo's prestigious Opera House, the Egyptian cultural institution with a 144-year-long history.

    Between December 2011 and the summer of 2013, Dayem had already filled the position but was later evicted by the ruling Muslim Brotherhood. Now back in charge, she talks with greater enthusiasm about future prospects.

    ''I am very happy of having overcome that moment, and, most of all, of being finally able to look forward towards the 2015-2016 season, without cancelling concerts, representations or shows'', she said while in Rome. She will be performing in the Italian capital tonight at a concert together with the orchestra of the Opera House, at the Egyptian Academy for the Festival of Africa, the 12th edition of the International Festival of contemporary African Cultures, ongoing in the capital until December 8, with a photo exhibit on portraits of African women.

    Shortly before she was let go, she was talking about ''resources cut to the minimum, loss of sponsors, performances by foreign groups and artists reduced drastically and countries that had turned their backs on us''.

    During the presidency of Mohamed Morsi, she recalled, ''the rallying cry was 'survival' - surviving cultural and political decline experienced by the country''.

    Abdel Dayem, a flutist with a degree from the conservatory of Cairo, a PhD from the Ecole normale de musique in Paris, has served as a deputy president of the Academy of arts and a former director of Cairo's symphonic orchestra. Until that time, Dayem recalled in a previous interview in Cairo, ''nobody had succeeded in putting their hands on this historic institution''.

    The construction of the oldest opera house in the Middle East was ordered by Khedive Ismail in 1869 for the opening of the Suez Canal. The original building was destroyed in a fire in 1971.

    The current complex which includes, along with the theatres, a museum, two galleries (a contemporary and a fine arts gallery), as well as two exhibit centres showcasing temporary shows, was built with the financial support of the Japanese government.

    This year things seem to be improving, in spite of a shortage in funding and persisting terror attacks, ''we are again looking at the future, to carry out our program, we have not been forced to annul any performance and we are once again hosting foreign companies''.

    Argentina, India, Russia are back and ''we hope Italy as well, increasingly stronger''. ''I am trying to organize a meeting with the leadership of Rome's Teatro dell'Opera in February, said Dayem. The Roman institution is however in dire financial straits.

    There is still one thing that is missing, concluded Abdel Dayem - ''freedom'' beyond the laws and impositions of the government. ''We need to be completely free'' and this appears to be impossible, she said. ''It is society and the mentality still existing in the country today that mostly hinders art in all its forms''. (ANSAmed)

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