The crème de la crème of Cairo’s high society, and public officials attended the first Manial Palace Classical Music Festival on 1 November in the Golden Hall of the historic Manial Palace in Mainial.
The festival will run through 9 November.
The inaugural concert featured Egyptian mezzo-soprano Gala El-Hadidi, accompanied by Armenian-French pianist and maestro of the National Chamber Orchestra in Armenia Vahan Mardirossian.
On top of the luminaries attending were Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Anani, US Ambassador Thomas Goldberg, French Consul Francois Pugeant, Head of the Delegation of the European Union Commission in Cairo Ambassador Ivan Surkos, and Director of the French Cultural Institute Mohamed Bouabdallah.
Prince Abbas Helmi, who is the chairman of the Association of the Friends of Manial Palace Museum, the grandson of Khedive Abbas Helmi, and grand-nephew of the founder of the Manial Palace Museum, Prince Mohamed Ali Tawfiq, welcomed the audience.
Director of the Manial Palace cultural activities, Hassan Kamy, introduced the artists to the audience.
Star actor Sayed Ragab, as well as actress Arwa Gouda and the Cairo Opera House tenor Sobhi Bedeir, were also present.
In his welcome speech, Helmi said that “the festival will light up the historic Manial Palace with a rich programme of classical music concerts alongside the Manial Palace Museum and its exquisite ancient collection.”
“The week-long festival is the first of its kind to be launched by the Friends of the Manial Palace Museum (FMPM) and is organised by Orient Productions. It has grown from the individual concerts and events previously held by the FMPM, and aims to fundraise for the preservation of the palace,” he concluded.
In the second part of the concert, soprano Gala El-Hadidi seized the opportunity to express her admiration for the presence of her contemporaries, consummate opera singers Hassan Kamy and Sobhi Bedeir.
“Though my repertoire touches on many composers, I have a particularly large amount of experience in French music. Manial Palace has a huge tradition, so I decided to bring together the theme of a strong woman with her representations in French music with the composers or themes that are influenced by Egyptian history,” El-Hadidi said.
The festival is funded by the European Union, and supported by the French Cultural Institute, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Spanish Embassy, the Austrian Cultural Forum, the Czech Embassy and the Embassy of Slovakia in Cairo.
In addition to enriching the music scene in Egypt, the new festival is also an opportunity to re-open the private collection of Prince Mohamed Ali to the public.
Tenor Hassan Kamy presents the concert (Photo: Mostafa Abdel Aty)
Actress Arwa Gouda at the opening of the festival
Photos by Mostafa Abdel Aty