The organizing committee of Lebanon’s Baalbeck International Festival announced Friday evening that a performance by Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu scheduled to take place at Baalbek’s Bacchus Temple Aug. 3 had been relocated to Jounieh’s Casino du Liban. Head of the festival committee Nayla de Freije said Sunday that the performer had requested that the location of her concert be changed.
“Some foreigners ask a lot of questions about Lebanon because they hear that there are some specific security problems,” de Freije said, “and she prefers to stay not too far from the airport ... She asked to be in one of the big hotels in Beirut and not go too far from her hotel.”
De Freije emphasized that the remaining five performances that make up this year’s festival program are scheduled to take place on site.
“The opening will stay on the 30th in Baalbek with Assi El Hallani and the rest of the program nothing is changed,” she said.
The festival moved back to Baalbek this year after a rocky season in 2013. Due to security concerns, last year’s festival was held at La Magnanerie, a 19th century silk factory in Boushrieh-Sadd, and several performances were cancelled.
This year the committee decided to return to Baalbek, but recent security incidents have raised questions about the viability of holding the festival at the Bekaa Valley site.
De Freije said that remaining performances would “hopefully” go ahead in Baalbek.
“Everybody is asking if we’re sure ... Of course it depends on the security situation in the country,” she said. “We communicate with the Army, security forces and the Interior Ministry and we always make our decisions together with them. It’s not the [organizing] committee alone who makes the decision.”
De Freije declined to comment on when Gheorghiu requested that her concert venue be changed, but said that it was a “recent development.”
Should the security situation worsen, necessitating other changes to the program, the committee would respond on a case-by-case basis, she said. “We will discuss it day by day,” she said. “There is no Plan B already scheduled.”