For about one month of the year residents of Lebanon have an opportunity to absorb an unusually high quantity, and quality, of European high culture, thanks to Festival Al-Bustan.
This year’s festival, scheduled for Feb. 19 to March 27, promises to be particularly festive, as it will mark the 20 years anniversary of the cultural event. Since it was launched by Myrna Bustani in 1993, Al-Bustan has welcomed hundreds of local and international musicians and performers.
At a press conference Friday, music director Gianluca Marciano said that he was proud to be part of this event, as it “presents to the Lebanese public something of a really high level.”
Entitled “This World Needs Music,” this year’s festival will open with a concert featuring Italian violinist Anna Tifu and Russian cellist Boris Andrianov, who will be accompanied by Al-Bustan Festival Orchestra and Pan European Philharmonia Orchestra, under the baton of Marciano.
Over the next month or so, audiences will be able to discover such new talents as the U.K. vocal ensemble Stile Antico. Defined by some as “one of the [world’s] most original and exciting voices,” Stile Antico has toured many times with pop vocalist Sting. Here they will interpret a repertoire from the 15th to 17th centuries at Jbeil’s Church of St. John.
Among other highlights will be the eight-voice all-woman Geghard Choir, performing a program that focuses on Middle Eastern liturgies – medieval sacred monodies and Armenian folk song – at Beirut’s St. Louis Cathedral.
For those eager to discover innovative readings of the classics, the MoZuluArt men’s ensemble will present their own combination of Mozart repertoire with African rhythm.
Another male choir, this one from the Mezwej Ensemble, will also perform a musical tribute to the African Bushmen – a creation by Lebanese composer Zad Moutaka.
One of the objectives of this year’s festival, Marciano explained, is to “propose future stars.” Among the celestial bodies rising through the musical firmament is pianist Oliver Poole, who will hit the stage twice – once in a solo recital, then once again accompanied by violinist Hrachya Avanessyan and cellist Narek Haknazaryan.
One mission of Al-Bustan this year is to celebrate Verdi and Wagner. The Helikon Opera Company will interpreted the musical comedy “A Ban on Love,” while lectures by Peter Conrad will highlight both composers’ importance in the classical repertoire. – C.L.
Festival Al-Bustan will be staged in various venues around Lebanon from Feb. 19 to March 27. For more information, call 04-972-980 or visit www.albustanfestival.com