Marcel Khalife lives up to lofty expectations at Royal Opera House Muscat

Published March 8th, 2015 - 08:32 GMT

It was a night of classic Marcel Khalife at the Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM) on Thursday, as even his newest symphony sampled his own familiar melodies.

The Lebanese singer, composer and oud player made his ROHM debut with a two-part concert, the first featuring the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra (ROSO), under the baton of Armenian-Lebanese maestro Harout Fazlian, premiering Khalife's newest work Symphony of Return, and the second featuring Khalife himself with his ensemble singing a number of his popular songs.

Symphony of Return is a beautiful four-movement piece that blends Western classical orchestral music with Khalife's Arabian melodies. It is both old and modern, fresh and nostalgic. In Khalife's own words, he has "tried to instill a new spirit in Eastern music and lift it up to the level of universal art, but without detaching it from its indigenous spirit." There were a couple of especially lovely sections with pronounced percussion and a sensual, smooth clarinet solo by guest artist Ismail Lumanovski.

ROSO seemed completely at ease with the music and played very well. Maybe it was because they had spent a lot of time rehearsing with maestro Fazlian, or perhaps, they were simply exciting to be premiering a new piece of music.

Whatever the case, every musician seemed to be performing to the very best of their abilities and they were most deserving of the loud, long applause.

For the second half of the concert the audience was treated to a long and moving performance by Khalife and his Mayadine Quintet, which includes Khalife himself on oud and vocals, Rami Khalife on piano, Julien Labro on accordion, Ismail Lumanovski on clarinet, and Bachar Khalife on percussion.

Though they were only scheduled to play for an hour, they stretched their seven songs into an hour and half.

The highlights included a number of songs Khalife wrote using the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish for the lyrics. There was the well-known Rita, in which Khalife has most of the audience singing along, the moving Ommi (Mother), which Darwish wrote from prison, and Jawaz El Safar (Passport).

Though Khalife is nearly 65 and has been performing for well over 40 years, he certainly hasn't lost his charisma or his voice, which is still strong, emotional and moving. There were also a couple of highly enthusiastic and noteworthy performances by Lumanovski on clarinet and Rami Khalife on the piano during Jawaz El Safar.

Marcel Khalife has been long-awaited at the ROHM and his concert definitely lived up to expectations, from the great ROSO performance of his new music to his old favourites which the audience clearly loved.


© Muscat Media Group

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