Monday October 23, 2017
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, yet it never gained popularity within the mainstream Egyptian culture.
In spite of that, many Egyptian opera singers gained international acclaim, where their voices resonate on stages of the most distinguishable opera houses in the world.
Soprano Neveen Allouba
Neveen Allouba began her music studies at the age of eight with Olga Yassa, the prominent Egyptian Piano Professor. She graduated from the Cairo Conservatory with honors in piano, and holds a Ph.D. in opera and vocal pedagogy from the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hannover.
She received first prize in the female voice division of the Berlin Young Opera Singers Competition in 1985. She was soloist at the Detmold Opera House in Germany and has performed since in most west European capitals and Arab countries, to move later on to the Cairo Opera House as a Soprano Soloist, member of the Cairo Opera Company. She was the first female voice to sing at the opening of New Cairo Opera House in 1988.
She is currently a staff member of the Cairo Conservatoire, Academy of Arts, member of the Cairo Opera Company Artistic Bureau, Founder of the Singing Department of the College for Specified Studies, University of Alexandria, and Adjunct Professor of Voice at the American University in Cairo. She is also a member of various National and International Jury Panels, including: The Annual Cairo International Singing Competition of (Fidov), The Deutsche Jugend Musiziert Wettbewerb, The Fullbright Scholarship Panel, The Egyptian Supreme Council Opera Competition.
In the 90s she co-founded the Akhenaten Chamber Opera, and currently she founded “FABRICA” for the Development of Egyptian Contemporary Music Theatre.
Farrah El Dibany
The 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.
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.
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.
Soprano Nabila Erian
After graduating from the Angelican British School, Erian enrolled in the first class of the Cairo Conservatoire for music, which opened in 1958. She musical journey as a professional opera singer started in 1960. She was the first Egyptian to sing La Traviata at the Cairo Opera House in 1964, and was the youngest soprano to play the role of Violetta.
She was the first Egyptian soprano to sing a translated international opera in Arabic. She also sang the first ever Arabic Opera Anas el-Wugood, based on the One Thousand and One Nights stories in 1994.
Erian obtained her PhD in Coptic music from the University of Maryland in 1986. Erian taught at the Cairo Conservatoire, part of Egypt’s Academy of Arts, as a professor of vocal sciences. She was also the Director of the Cairo Opera Company and the Associate Dean of the Cairo Conservatoire.
In 1964, she received an award from Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser at Eid al-Ilm (Science Festival), a few months after her performance in La Traviata. She was the second Egyptian singer to receive this award after Umm Kalthum
During her career, she also received international music awards from Japan, France and Budapest.
Mezzosoprano Gala El Hadidi
Born in Cairo, Gala first attended the German school before she studied Philosophy, English and Comparative Literature at the American University in Cairo.
In school, Gala had joined the choir. At the age of 15, she participated in a voice competition in Turkey for German schools’ students. In Turkey, her family discovered her opera singing talent. After the competition, she joined the Cairo Opera House’s Talent Development Center, and sang in Egypt’s dubbed Disney movies as well as in small concerts at the Cairo Opera House. In September 2001, at the age of 18, she signed a contract as a soloist with the Cairo Opera House, becoming their youngest singer.
In 2005 she received a scholarship study at the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart. She also attended the Savonlinna Music Academy in Finland and received her Master’s from Yale University.
In 2008, she was awarded an outstanding achievement prize and recognition by Egypt’s Ministry of Culture. In 2010, she received the Encouragement Award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, New England Regionals.
After her Music studies in USA, she was asked to join the Semper Opera Dresden as a Soloist, and became a Company member from 2010 till 2016.
In 2013, El Hadidi became the first Egyptian finalist at the BBC Cardiff Singer of The World.
Soprano Fatma Said
Born in Cairo, Fatma Said started her singing lessons at the age of fourteen. After receiving her Bachelor of Music from the prestigious Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin in 2013, Said was awarded a scholarship to study at the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala in Milan, becoming the first Egyptian soprano to perform on that iconic stage. Critics praised her among the world’s promising young opera singers.
During her career, she participated in concerts, festivals and recitals in major concert halls and opera houses across the world including Egypt, Germany, France, Greece, Turkey, Oman, Finland, Austria, Spain, Italy and Switzerland.
Said has won several major singing competitions including the 8th Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition (Dublin, 2016) and the 7th Leyla Gencer International Opera Competition (Istanbul, 2012
Said represented Egypt twice at the United Nations in Geneva, on Human Right’s Day in 2014, and in The Silk Road concert in 2017.
In 2016, she received an honorary award from Egypt’s National Council for Women and became the first Egyptian opera singer ever to be awarded the Creativity Award, one of Egypt’s highest honors.
Said currently resides in Berlin and continues to perform all over the world.
Soprano Amira Selim
The musical journey of prominent Egyptian opera singer Amira Selim started at the age of six. She grew up in a house where music and art were not only cherished, but also a profession. Amira was born to pioneering pianist and classical musician Marcelle Matta and Egypt’s renowned artist and art critic Ahmed Fouad Selim. Her parents’ artistic background played an instrumental role in shaping her upbringing and influencing her career.
After studying piano, ballet and painting, she started in 1993 voice training and Italian repertoire in Italy with soprano Gabriella Ravazzi.
She joined the Cairo Opera Company in 1997, and played Rosina, her first main role in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” in 1998 in Cairo. Two years after her graduation from the Cairo Conservatoire, she received a scholarship from the French government and she obtained the Diplôme supérieur de concertiste in 2004 from the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. In the same year, she played the role of ‘Lakmé’ in Delibes’s Opera Lakmé, her debut in France, performed in Opera Rennes. In 2002, she was the first prize winner at the international competition of Orvieto, Italy.
Amira who lives in Paris is also working on a CD with original songs composed by Egyptian and French composers. Her voice was also recorded on the soundtrack of the documentary film, “A Footnote in Ballet History,” that records the history of ballet in Egypt and which was screened in the Cairo International Film Festival in November.
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Thank you for sharing their stories. These ladies are a gift to the world.