Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Puccini gets a standing ovation in Nablus

As one of the more conservative Muslim areas of the West Bank, the city of Nablus may not be a place to expect an opera, let alone one with plenty of wine-drinking and skirts. But Puccini's opera "La Boheme" premiered here tonight to a packed crowd in the An-Najah University, put on by the touring Choir of London. I was really interested in seeing the opera here, since the social dynamics of Nablus are really different from that in Ramallah or Bethlehem.

The opera was entirely in Italian, but had the addition of a narration in Arabic at the beginning of the acts by Saleh Bakri, a famous Palestinian actor who may have been responsible for drawing a lot of the crowd. It definitely helped to keep attention focused on the scene.

The crowd seemed like it was from a fairly wide spectrum, with many from the college-age crowd as well as families bringing their children. I was half-expecting that the parts of the opera might cause some offense in the crowd, like when the dying Mimi's shoes were pointed directly at the audience (traditionally disrespectful in Arab culture).

But of course I was wrong. The crowd gave them a raucous standing ovation at the end which was really touching to see.

Some more of Nablus.

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