UPDATE: Santa Claus is Coming to Town: Christmas Concerts PROGRAMME

Ahram Online, Wednesday 11 Dec 2013

As Christmas quickly approaches, Cairo and Alexandria put on a festive mood, with holiday performances by many renowned soloists, choirs, and orchestras, plus The Nutcracker


Christmas brings a sense of warmth. As Christians are a minority in Egypt, the Christmas atmosphere is mostly limited to trees and decorations sold in Cairo's neighbourhoods populated with Copts or foreigners. Festivities are confined to churches and Christian households.

So it is music, then, that helps us all enjoy Christmas. From December until mid-January, musicians will be delivering some charm and Christmas cheer to Egyptian audiences through songs and carols, masses or ballet.

Below are our top picks of Christmas-related music events taking place in Cairo and Alexandria:

Christmas Concert with stars of Fabrica

Friday 13 December, 8pm
Small Hall, Cairo Opera House, Zamalek

Featuring gems from the Christmas repertoire, the evening is hosted by soprano Neveen Allouba and Grieg Martin on piano. The event will showcase vocal talents of the Fabrica, the Egyptian musical theatre troupe, best known for its musical Les Miserables performed for the first time by Fabrica at the American University of Cairo campus last May. The troupe includes students from the American University in Cairo's music performance major along with other young vocal talents. The guest star of the Christmas concert will be baritone Raouf Zaidan.

Christmas Carols with Sphinx Orchestra

Sunday 15 December, 8pm
Small Hall, Cairo Opera House, Zamalek

Sphinx Orchestra, conducted by Hany Hassan, and St. Mark's Choir will perform Christmas Carols. Choir Master: George Latif

Annual Christmas Concert at the Cairo Opera House

Monday 16 and Tuesday 17 December, 8pm
Main Hall, Cairo Opera House, Zamalek
Cairo Opera Company, Cairo Celebration Choir and Cairo Opera Orchestra conducted by Nayer Nagui

This annual concert of the Cairo Celebration Choir (CCC), and the artists from the Cairo Opera Company has become an annual tradition of the Cairo Opera. The concerts take place since CCC's inception in 1999, when conductor Nayer Nagui first brought together a group of 70 amateur singers to sing with soloists from the Cairo Opera Company, alongside the Cairo Opera Orchestra at its first Christmas concert, performing a list of the most well-known Christmas songs, which Nagui had arranged.

Since then, the choir has grown to comprise more than 120 members, from different walks of life and musical backgrounds, and has expanded its repertoire to include large choral works, western classical music, and Arabic music. To date, the CCC has given a large number of concerts on a variety of stages in Cairo and Alexandria. They also participated in 2012's Prague Voices in Czech Republic, winning the Silver Level Diploma.

Read the concert review here and check the photo gallery from the evening.

Cairo Celebration Choir
Cairo Celebration Choir in 2012 Christmas concert (Photo: Sherif Sonbol)

Christmas with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra

Friday 20 December, 8pm
Main Hall of the Cairo Opera House, Zamalek, Cairo
Saturday 21 December, 8pm
Alexandria Opera House, 22 El-Horreya Road (formerly known as Fouad St.), El-Raml Station, Alexandria

Conducted by Jiri Petrdlik, The Cairo Symphony Orchestra will perform Haydn's Symphony No. 26 in D minor, Lamentation, Mozart's Adagio and Fugue for Strings in C minor, Laudate Dominum from Vesperae Solennes de Confessore for soprano and orchestra, Motet "Exsultate jubilate" for soprano and orchestra, and Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks.

The soloists of the evening will be Spanish soprano Laura Alonso Padín and Zafar Asimov on trombone

David's Heart Choir performs Christmas repertoire

Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 December, 8pm
Alexandria Opera House, 22 El-Horreya Road (formerly known as Fouad St.), El-Raml Station, Alexandria

David's Heart Choir consists of a large number of Coptic children and youth, singing Christmas songs and carols in English and Arabic.

David's Heart Choir (Photo: still from YouTube)

Christmas Concert with Gala El-Hadidi

Wednesday 25 December, 8pm
Small Hall, Cairo Opera House, Zamalek

The Egyptian mezzo soprano Gala El-Hadidi extends an invitation for an evening of famous songs and the Christmas repertoire. She will be accompanied by Elena Dzamashvili on piano. Despite a busy international schedule, El-Hadidi is dedicated to Egyptian audiences and performances. On the event's Facebook page, she said: "Our beloved Egypt has been through a lot. We've ousted two presidents, and we are treading a new path. But Christmas is quickly approaching, kindly asking all of us to forgive previous trespasses."

Born in 1982, El-Hadidi is a graduate of the American University in Cairo, where she studied Philosophy, English and Comparative Literature. She took vocal classes at the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart, Germany, and continued her vocal study in Savonlinna and at Yale University. Since 2010, she has been a soloist at both Cairo Opera House and Semperoper Dresden in Germany.

Gala El-Hadidi
Gala El-Hadidi performing at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2013 (Photo: still from YouTube)

Resala Band's annual Christmas concert at El-Sawy Culturewheel

Wednesday 25 December, 7.30pm
Nile Hall, 26th of July street, Zamalek

Resala Band, also known as The Message Team, was established in 1986, singing and playing music at Cairo's churches. Since then, it has performed at the Cairo Opera House on several occasions. Its Christmas repertoire of well-known carols and songs will interest audience members from all walks of life.

Christmas concert with students of the Talents Development Centre

Thursday 26 December, 8pm
Small Hall of the Cairo Opera House, Zamalek, Cairo

Vocal class of Sobhi Bidair will perform arias from famous operas, Christmas songs and duets. Operating under the Talents Development Centre at the Cairo Opera House, Bidair -- Egypt's renowned tenor - is teaching a total of over 50 amateurs: passionate singers, of all ages, from a 10-year-old to people in their 40s.

As a singer, Sobhi Bidair has a rare ability to perform two different styles -- mastering both the pop and classical-operatic techniques. He performed in Les Petits Chats, a band of the 1960s and 1970s that became known in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. His resume also boasts operatic roles and recognitions in both Egypt and abroad: he was one of the finalists at the Pavarotti International Singing Competition, receiving the title of Cavaliere from the Italian government, and the Egyptian Opera Shield of Honour for his remarkable achievements in opera. In the 1990s, Bidair was the head of the Cairo Opera Company and the head of the singing department of the Cairo Conservatory, holding both posts more than once.

Jesus Heart Choir Christmas concert

Friday 27 and Saturday 28 December, 8pm
El-Gomhoria Theatre

The Jesus Heart Choir is comprised of blind women. From its founding in 1990, playing only to small gatherings. Since 2005, it has performed at Hanager Theatre and the Cairo Opera House's small hall. In 2006, the choir was invited to perform in the United States.  

Jesus Heart Choir
Jesus Heart Choir (Photo: Still from YouTube)

The Nutcracker ballet

24, 25, 27, 28, 29 and 30 December, 8pm
Main Hall, Cairo Opera House, Zamalek
Cairo Opera Ballet Company, Cairo Opera Orchestra conducted by Nayer Nagui

Based on the story The Nutcracker and the King of Mice by E.T.A. Hoffman, revised by Dumas and set to the music of P.I. Tchaikovsky, the Nutcracker ballet is based on a choreography by Pepita, Ivanov and Vaionine, with some touches by late director Abdel Moneim Kamel.

The story of the ballet presents a little girl named Clara who receives a mechanical doll.  Since there is always something mysterious about Christmas, her magic dream begins with the clock striking midnight. Clara is transported to an imaginary world where she witnesses the battle between the King of Mice and the Nutcracker. When the Nutcracker wins, turning into a prince, he takes Clara on a journey to the Land of Snow and the Land of Sweets, inviting her to a variety of dances.

This lovely story is a captivating experience for the audiences of all ages and a particularly enjoyable evening for children.

The Cairo Opera House will allow entry to children aged 7 and above.

The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker ballet, 2012 (Photo: Sherif Sonbol)

Christmas Concert with the soloists of the Cairo Opera Company in Alexandria

Saturday 28 December, 8pm
Alexandria Opera House, 22 El-Horreya Road (formerly known as Fouad St.), El-Raml Station, Alexandria

The soloists of the Cairo Opera Company will perform the best known Christmas songs and carols, accompanied by pianist Medea Ormotsadze. The director of the evening is Hazem Tayel.

A selection of Carols with Bibliotheca Alexandrina choir and soloists

Saturday 28 December, 7pm
Chatby, Alexandria

Bibliotheca Alexandrina Choir and Bibliotheca Alexandrina Chamber Orchestra will perform Christmas repertoire. The soloists of the evening will be Rodica Ocheseanu, Christine Magdy Eskander and Gary Bohjelian.

Saint Augustine Choir Christmas concert

Sunday 29 December, 8pm
El-Gomhoria Theatre, 12 El-Gomhoreya Street, Abdin, Cairo

Egypt's Sainte Augustine Choir was founded almost half a century ago by Makram Hanna.


* Above listings were updated on Thursday 19 December.

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