In Lebanon, single-concert festival serenades empty ruins

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Musicians from the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra perform during a concert in the ancient northeastern city of Baalbek, Lebanon, Sunday, July 5, 2020. (AP)
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Musicians from the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra perform during a concert in the ancient northeastern city of Baalbek, Lebanon, Sunday, July 5, 2020. (AP)
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Maestro Harout Fazlian conducts rehearsals ahead of the Sound of Resilience concert inside the Temple of Bacchus at the historic site of Baalbek in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley, on July 4, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 05 July 2020

In Lebanon, single-concert festival serenades empty ruins

  • The Baalbek International Festival was streamed live on television and social media
  • The night kicked off with the Lebanese philharmonic orchestra and choir performing the national anthem

BEIRUT: A philharmonic orchestra performed to spectator-free Roman ruins in east Lebanon Sunday, after a top summer festival downsized to a single concert in a year of economic meltdown and pandemic.
The Baalbek International Festival was instead streamed live on television and social media, in what its director called a message of “hope and resilience” amid ever-worsening daily woes.
The night kicked off with the Lebanese philharmonic orchestra and choir performing the national anthem, followed by Carmina Burana’s “O Fortuna,” a 13th century poem set to music.

The program, which ran for just over an hour, included a mix of classical music and rock and folk tunes by composers ranging from Beethoven to Lebanon’s Rahbani brothers.
Held in the open air and conducted by Harout Fazlian, the 150 musicians and chorists were scattered inside the illuminated Temple of Bacchus, as drones filmed them among the enormous ruins and Greco-Roman temples of Baalbek.
Festival director Nayla de Freige told AFP most artists performed for free at the designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
The concert aimed to represent “a way of saying that Lebanon does not want to die. We have an extremely productive and creative art and culture sector,” she said.
“We want to send a message of civilization, hope and resilience.”
Baalbek itself became a militia stronghold during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, but conservation and tourism have revived the ruins over the past three decades.
Lebanon is known for its summer music festivals, which have in past years drawn large crowds every night and attracted performers like Shakira, Sting and Andrea Bocelli.
Other festivals have not yet announced their plans for this year.
Lebanon has recorded just 1,873 cases of COVID-19, including 36 deaths.
But measures to stem the spread of the virus have exacerbated the country’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Since economic woes in the autumn sparked mass protests against a political class deemed irretrievably corrupt, tens of thousands have lost their jobs or part of their income, and prices have skyrocketed.
Banks have prevented depositors from withdrawing their dollar savings, while the local currency has lost more than 80 percent of its value to the greenback on the black market.

 


‘Gladiator’ star Russell Crowe pitches in to rescue blast-hit Beirut eatery Le Chef

Updated 39 min 8 sec ago

‘Gladiator’ star Russell Crowe pitches in to rescue blast-hit Beirut eatery Le Chef

  • Oscar-winning Crowe said on Twitter that he made the donation “on behalf of Anthony Bourdain”

BEIRUT: Hollywood star Russell Crowe said Thursday that he donated funds to help rebuild a blast-hit Beirut restaurant on behalf of late food icon Anthony Bourdain, who loved its traditional dishes.
The decades-old Le Chef restaurant, located in the heart of a trendy Beirut district, is a beloved neighborhood place renowned for its home-style cooking.
It was blown to pieces by the August 4 explosion that killed 171 people, wounded at least 6,500 and ravaged swathes of Beirut.
The Oscar-winning Crowe, best known for his role in the 2000 action film Gladiator, said on Twitter that he made the donation “on behalf of Anthony Bourdain.”

“I thought that he would have probably done so if he was still around,” Crowe said of the celebrity chef and travel journalist who committed suicide in 2018.
“Hope things can be put back together soon.”
Crowe’s $5,000 donation was made on a GoFundMe page set up by fans of Le Chef, a restaurant popular with tourists as well as locals in the Gemmayzeh neighborhood that was among the hardest-hit by the explosion.
The online fundraiser raised nearly $11,000 in less than 24 hours, just $2,000 short of its target.

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Le Chef is where Bourdain had his first meal when he and his crew where trapped in Lebanon for a week in 2006 because of a month-long war with Israel.
It is featured in the highly-praised Lebanon episode of his ‘No Reservations’ series.
“Really good food, very traditional,” Bourdain says of the restaurant in the show, calling it a “nice mix” of old and new.
It’s a “good first meal in Beirut.”