Palestinians perform Carmen with Swiss choir

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Palestinian musicians from the West Bank collaborated with a Swiss choir to perform George Bizet’s renowned opera, Carmen.

The concert took place in Bethlehem’s Convention Palace.

Playing alongside musicians from the The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) Orchestra were members of the Palestinian Youth Orchestra, made up of Palestinian students aged between the ages of 12 and 19 who live in the West Bank.

The young musicians are taught by Palestinian, European and American musicians.

Director of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, Jalil Elias, said the event showed just how talented the young musicians are.

“This is a very unique event for the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music because it needs very qualified people to work on it, particularly as it is the opera of Carmen. Our students and teachers worked with this organization to ensure the success of this event which is the first of its kind to happen in Palestine. With this high performance we have proved that Palestinians are highly qualified and are able to do such an event in our country,” said Elias.

Set in the Spanish city of Seville in the 19th century, the opera tells the tale of a passionate love story between Carmen, the fiery Spanish gypsy girl who seduces Don José, a naïve soldier who goes mad with love with tragic consequences for them both.

The young musicians taking part in the show said they were delighted to be a part of such a performance.

“This is a professional orchestra and today we will play with opera singers from Switzerland, who are famous and who sing opera in a unique way. As Palestinians playing with these people it makes us very happy and has touched and changed us,” said Lamar Jaleel, who plays the violin.

The St. Michel Choir is made up of singers between the ages of 16 and 25 years from Fribourg, the capital city of the Sarine district.

Friboug is a medieval town that sits on the cultural border between the German and French speaking parts of Switzerland.

Colombian pianist and conductor Juan David Molano has been the ESNCM’s Principal Conductor since his appointment in 2011.

“I can relate that perfectly with the situation in Palestine. They are just [too] oppressed to flourish their cultural capacities and I think this is the occasion for them to look outside this oppression and this gives them more strength in character and they are really having the benefit of all this,” said Molano, who conducted the orchestra.

The ESNCM works in partnership with the Fondation les Instruments de la Paix (Switzerland) and the Geneva Conservatoire, where Molano is also a professor of piano.

Local residents filled the auditorium seats and concert-goers expressed their joy at witnessing the progress of their young Palestinian musicians.

“The performance is really amazing and the participation of Palestinian youths with an international opera from a country like Switzerland prove that the Palestinian youths are excelling in their musical abilities and are representing Palestine to the world. Being able to play with this opera means that they have reached a very good level,” said one concert attendee, Maha Jabeer, from Bethlehem.

The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music was set up in 1993 after five Palestinian musicians and music teachers carried out a study on the status of music in Palestine in 1990 and found a huge lack of musical education in Palestinian society.

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