Cairo Celebration Choir (Photo by Miriam Benyamein)
The Cairo Celebration Choir (CCC), conducted by Nayer Nagui, its founder and artistic director, will perform Gioachino Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle (Little Solemn Mass) at the Cairo Opera House on 12 May and Basilique Cathedrale on 13 May.
Nagui says that Petite Messe Solennelle, which he describes as "every choir's classic," was the last major work by Rossini originally scored for 12 singers, four of them soloists, two pianos and a harmonium. It was later that the composition was orchestrated.
Rossini work is considered a masterpiece from the composer's retirement period. The title is a misnomer, since the Little Solemn Mass includes segments filled with brightness and humour, typical to Rossini's character throughout many of his compositions.
Upon the work's completion, Rossini said of Petite Messe, "Dear Lord, here it is finished, this poor little mass. Have I just written sacred music, or rather, sacrilegious music? I was born for opera buffa, as you well know. Not much technique, a little bit of heart, that’s all. Blessings to you and grant me Paradise."
Petite Messe Solennelle is also a beloved work by the CCC due to the composition’s melodious nature and the appeal it carries with non-connoisseur audiences.
The composition has been in the CCC's repertoire for a few years. They performed it in 2006 and 2011.
The upcoming performances will include the following soloists: Dina Iskander (soprano), Jolie Faizy (mezzo-soprano), Amr Medhat (tenor), Christian Wagner (baritone), as well as Pascale Rozier on piano and Mohamed Saleh on harmonium.
This is the first time for Wagner, a guest Baritone from Germany, to perform in Egypt.
"The CCC choir continues to invite soloists from abroad as part of its efforts to identify the performers with the best and most suitable combination of voices and style in order to successfully deliver the piece," Nagui says, stressing that with religious works such as this Rossini piece, it is especially difficult to secure this combination.
Christian Martin Benjamin Wagner was born and raised in Frankfurt, Germany, and studied cello, modern languages, philosophy, pedagogy and other fields before embarking on singing. He was trained at the conservatory of Mainz city under professor Claudia Eder. He is the winner of the prestigious international singing competition at the chamber opera castle Rheinsberg.
Founded in 2000, the CCC has a long history of performing Western classical and Arabic music.
The choir has been accoladed several prestigious awards, including the Silver Level Diploma Award for Stylish Interpretation of Arabic Music by the Prague Voices Festival in the Czech Republic in 2012. This participation marked the first ever by an Egyptian choir in the Prague Voices Festival.
The choir was also awarded the Silver Diploma, one of the major awards presented by the ninth World Choir Games, in the 'Folklore with Accompaniment' category for their performance of a compilation of folkloric songs from one of their iconic repertoire elements, Aghani Bel Arabi.
The performance of Petite Messe Solenelle is one hour-long without intermission.
Friday 12 May at 2 pm
Cairo Opera House Main Entrance Lobby, El Gezira, Zamalek, Cairo
Saturday 13 May at 8 pm
Basilique Cathedral, Heliopolis
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