Baalbeck International Festival returns live to Lebanon for first time in three years

The world-renowned event features a programme of classic and modern in-person performances

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The Baalbeck International Festival returns in its live form for the first time in three years on Friday, set amid the world-famous Roman archaeological site in the Beqaa Valley.

Until July 17, the festival will be welcoming enthusiasts to experience four nights of culture and sound, with a programme featuring classic and modern performances from Lebanon and around the world.

The locations of the events will be split between the the Temple of Bacchus and Baalbek Acropolis.

The largely reduced programme will have a night of classical music with Lubnan Baalbaki and Soumaya Baalbaki, Lebanese indie band Adonis, and performances by international artists Jose Quevedo "Bolita" and duet Simon Ghraichy and Rana Gorgani.

Iranian dancer Rana Gorgani is set to perform at Baalbeck International Festival this year. EPA

“We wanted to look at the future, and to emphasise young Lebanese talents,” says Nayla de Freige, president of the Baalbeck International Festival. “And with Lubnan and Soumaya, we will also show our roots in tradition and in big concerts.”

The festival comes at a challenging time for art and culture in Lebanon. As the economic crises continue, funding for arts and culture programmes has faced significant cuts, including funding for the festival itself.

“We have been able to get the budget to do something symbolic, maybe not as big as usual. The idea this year, is not to be big but to exist,” says de Freige.

This led organisers to decide on the theme We Are Alive, a double entendre paying tribute to not only the survival of the festival, but also the return of live concerts after the previous two events were streamed online, in accordance with Covid-19 regulations.

In 2021, the festival was streamed on the event's YouTube and Facebook channels and featured 10 indie music artists performing pre-recorded sets amid several Roman archaeological sites across the Beqaa Valley.

This year, besides bringing together music forms both old and new, the festival aims to be outward-looking, with incredible shows from overseas.

“We are keeping the link between West and East. Maintaining the cultural diversity, and the cultural dialogue,” says de Freige.

Here are the four performances to look out for:

Baalbeck Evenings, the return

When: Friday, July 8

Where: Steps of Temple of Bacchus

Soumaya Baalbaki will perform at a night of classical music. Photo: Baalbeck International Festival

Inaugurating the Baalbeck International Festival 2022, the evening will include tarab, traditional folk tunes as well as many old-time favourites. Paying tribute to the great figures of Lebanese songs, the performance will be led by Soumaya, who will be accompanied by an orchestra of more than 35 musicians conducted by Lubnan, and with the participation of the Notre Dame University Choir Louaize.

With this evening, the festival aims to rekindle the richness of traditional Lebanese music.

Adonis

When: Sunday, July 10

Where: Steps of Temple of Bacchus

Adonis is a Lebanese indie-pop band renowned for its signature Arabic lyrics and blistering live performances. Photo: Baalbeck International Festival

Highly acclaimed pop-rock band Adonis have been redefining Lebanese music since they formed a decade ago. After a year-long absence from their home country, Adonis will make their comeback at Baalbeck, performing their biggest hits, as well as exclusive material from their coming album.

Combining signature Arabic lyrics with stellar pop arrangements, Adonis’s music appeals to several generations and boasts a huge following in Lebanon and the region.

Trio Jose Quevedo “Bolita”

When: Monday, July 11

Where: Baalbek Acropolis

Jose Quevedo Bolita will present his show Caotico Trio for the first time in Lebanon. Photo: Baalbeck International Festival

After receiving the Giraldillo Award at Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla, flamenco guitarist and composer Bolita presents his show Caotico Trio for the first time in Lebanon at the festival. An adaptation of the band’s successful and award-winning show Caotico, it combines the most traditional flamenco with the sounds of jazz. The cast will be completed with artists Rafael de Utrera on “cante” and Carlos Merino on percussion.

Simon Ghraichy and Rana Gorgani, with Jacopo Baboni Schilingi

When: Sunday, July 17

Where: Baalbek Acropolis

Virtuoso pianist Simon Ghraichy will take to the stage. Photo: Baalbeck International Festival

Virtuoso pianist Ghraichy has invited Gorgani, who expresses herself by dancing like a whirling dervish, to join him in creating an original show, especially for Baalbeck, combining different music styles.

Schilingi, renowned for his computer-aided compositions and musical research, will provide the Orient-inspired musical interludes.

This concert of three artists is a blend of Oriental and Latin flavours, scholarly and popular music, classical tradition and new technologies, “like Baalbeck; a timeless citadel against all odds”, say the festival organisers.

According to organisers, tickets are selling quickly — they anticipate a last-minute rush towards the end of the week. Prices start at Lebanese lira 400,000.

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