– Written by Nadeen ElFekky and Maryam Meshal –
Sunday October 2, 2016
Music has always played a crucial role in the Egyptian culture. Dating back to the Ancient Egyptian civilization, music was believed to be a method of enlightening by Osiris, the god of the afterlife. Musicians were painted on the walls of ancient temples and tombs playing many instruments including the harp, flute and clarinet. This was the beginning of Egypt’s dynamic musical diversity.
Of the many music genres that emerged over the centuries, opera, which combines the art of singing, acting and dancing at once, is one of the most remarkable. Farrah ElDibany is among many Egyptian opera singers who have gained international acclaim, where their voices resonate on the stages of the most distinguishable opera houses worldwide. Farrah’s success story of international fame was topped by her acceptance at the prestigious Young Artist Program at the ‘Acadèmie de l’Opera Nationale de Paris”, the biggest Opera House worldwide. She is the first Egyptian resident in the prominent opera house, chosen as one of the 5 finest singers out of over 500 contestants.
With the increasing influence of classical music, opera singing was first introduced to Egypt in 1869. Khedive Ismail instructed the building of an opera house to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. He commissioned the famous Italian composer, Guizzepi Verdi, to write his famous opera Aida for the inaugural ceremonies. Over the decades, a tangible increase in popularity for opera was witnessed in Egypt. The momentum of this refined art came to an abrupt stop when the Khedivial Opera House went up in ablaze in 1971. With its destruction, many historical valuables including musical instruments, costumes and original music notes by Verdi were destroyed. The cultural mourning period for Egyptian artists and musicians ended with the opening of the New Cairo Opera House in October 1988. Four months later, on the 12th of February 1989, the birth of Farrah, the sensational opera singer marked the beginning of a musical legend.
The young mezzosoprano grew up in a musical environment where she developed an ear for classical and opera music at a young age. Her parents were enthusiasts of these genres and her grandfather played the piano. Farrah began taking piano lessons at the age of seven and voice lessons with renowned opera singer Nevine Alouba at age fourteen.
As a teenager, Farrah listened to Dalida, Frank Sinatra and Charles Aznavour. She attended the German School of Alexandria where she joined the choir, sang Dalida’s songs in several concerts and won many prizes. The major turning point in her life came when her German music teacher acknowledged her extraordinary vocal talent and encouraged her to pursue a career in opera singing. This notable encouragement drove Farrah to Germany to follow her passion. She received her Bachelor in Architecture from TU Berlin. Also she received a Bachelor of Arts from Hanns Eisler College of Arts, and a Masters in Opera from The University of Arts Berlin.
Farrah has performed in all major venues in Cairo and Alexandria and received various national and international prizes. She performed several roles in renowned operas worldwide. Her outstanding performance playing the role “Carmen” in 2015 awarded her the title of best “Upcoming Young Opera Singer’ in a critic’s survey conducted by the “Opernwelt” Magazine yearbook. The National Round of the Eastern Mediterranean Region later appointed Farrah as one of their jury members.
Despite the multiple radical cultural and social changes causing the popularity of opera and classical music to dwindle, the remarkable mezzosoprano Farrah managed to pursue her passion and play a role in maintaining the quality and grace of classical and opera performances in Egypt. The elegant Farrah became a source of pride to Egyptians, rose to success and revived the art with her talent, both nationally and internationally. At only twenty seven years old, Farrah has printed her name amongst the many renowned opera singers worldwide and made history as one of the greatest Egyptian opera singers of all time. When asked about the most important lesson she learned in her career, she said, “One should never stop dreaming. I found out, by experience, that if one really visualizes herself doing something or becoming something, and worked her best to make it happen, it will happen. If you really see yourself doing something, you will do it!”
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