Report about the fourth week of Al Bustan Festival

21 March 2001

The Al Bustan Festival is now in it’s fifth and last week. The preceding week was quite historical. Verdi’s Requiem was performed for the first time in recent times in Lebanon. Three perfomances took place in three different churches. The first, on March 14th, was in Beirut in the church of St Joseph, at St Joseph’s University, built in 1860; the Italian Ambassador and several government officials attended the concert. The public rose to their feet giving a standing ovation to Barts Festival Choir and Orchestra as well as musicians from the Lebanese National Symphony and choristers from the National Conservatoire, directed by Professor John Lumley. Soloists were Lubana Al Quntar, soprano from Syria, Yvonne Schiffelers, mezzo-soprano from Holland, Ray Wade, tenor from the U.S.A. and Lebanese baritone Cyril Assaf. The second performance on March 15, was at the beautiful 19th century stone church of St Stephen in the northern port of Batroun; the Ambassador of the United States was amongst a very distinguished audience of music lovers. The third performance, on Saturday 17 March, took place in the ancient city of Tyre in South Lebanon in the 18th century church of St Thomas, built on an earlier Crusader church which itself was built on an early Byzantine church. This last performance was attended by Mrs Randa Berri, the wife of the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, the French Ambassador and several dignitaries. In complete contrast, the concert of Sunday 18 March took place at the Assembly Hall of the American University of Beirut and was given by the steel band players "The Melodians". The weather was so good that the second part of the concert took place out of doors on the campus of the University: students clapped and limbo-danced to the tunes of the musicians from London and Trinidad. On Friday 16 March the Albanese soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an opera recital in the glass conservatory "The Crystal Garden". The hall was full with opera fans who gave her a standing ovation. Accompanying her was the pianist Vincenzo Scalera, who is now waiting for his next soprano, Sumi- Jo due to arrive soon for her recital on Friday 23 March. Vincenzo is benefiting from the radiant sunshine. He will also be giving a masterclass at the Lebanese National Conservatoire on Wednesday 21 March. Beit Mery, 19 March.