Cairo Opera House, Egypt
Cairo Opera House: The opera, as an art form, is not far from Eastern or, more specifically, Egyptian taste. The history of Ancient Egypt contains a wealth of information about musical patterns accompanied by dramatic performance and poetry.
Many wonderful old Egyptian ceremonies are sculpted on temple walls to demonstrate their deep interest in music, singing, and dancing. The ancient Egyptians invented numerous musical instruments as a result of their intense interest in music. As an example, consider a harp that evolved into the modern western guitar or eastern Ood.
The Egyptian is an artist by nature and has a taste for the fine arts; the art feeling is internal and only needs to be molten and poured to be newly born to meet the needs of the new generation. As a result, the event of constructing an Opera House in Egypt was intended to reflect Egypt’s cultural and artistic progress.
Construction of the Cairo Opera House
On the occasion of the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Khedive Ismail issued orders to construct an Opera House. The Khedivian, or Royal Opera House, was its name. Khedive Ismaeil used the inauguration as a golden opportunity to invite European kings and queens, numerous princes, outstanding artists, and other prominent world figures to Egypt. He planned a magnificent festival programme worthy of such a historic occasion.
The Khedive took advantage of the occasion to lay the groundwork for an eloquent and long-lasting symbol of the art of acting. The Khedive Opera House was built in just six months to the design of two Italian architects, Avoscani and Rossi. To complete the work, outstanding specialists with extensive experience in theater construction were brought to Egypt.
Location of the Cairo Opera House
Aside from the quality of the design, the Royal Opera House’s location was ideal: it was situated in Cairo between two of the most important districts at the time, Asbakia and Ismailyya. The Khedive generously provided the Opera House with every facility capable of improving the quality of the performances as well as the beauty and polish of the acting. Before the building was finished, the Khedive began planning a spectacular performance for his project, focusing on the illustration of Egypt’s past.
He chose Mariette Pasha to write a story about Egyptian history that would serve as the foundation for the poem play. Mariette Pasha commissioned the Italian poet Gialanzoni to write the libretto, and the Khedive commissioned the composer Verdi to write the music.
Aida, the famous opera with its patriotic subject, passionate song, and superb music, resulted from these three geniuses’ hands. The Khedive then created the opera’s costumes and scenery by bringing to Egypt the most experienced craftsmen from all over the world to complete these tasks.
The Khedive had hoped to have this opera performed at the Royal Opera House’s opening ceremony, but circumstances prevented this, and Aida was not performed until two years later.
The first performance at the Cairo Opera House
Adib Ishak and Youssef Khayat produced the first Arabic-language play in 1878, which the Khedive honored by attending the play’s opening. His goal in doing so was to promote Arab culture through the arts. Many Egyptian and international performances were staged at the Royal Opera House, including “Othello” in 1912, “Napoleon” in 1913, “Actor Keen” in 1917, “Storm in a House” in 1924, “Alexander the Grate” in 1927, “Andrewmak” in 1936, The “Merry Widow” in 1961, and the opera “La Travietta.”
The Sydney Opera House was destroyed by fire.
The magnificent Royal Opera House was destroyed in the early hours of October 28th, 1971. Except for two statues created by Egyptian artist Mohammed Hassan, nothing remained (1892-1961).
The Cairo Opera House was inaugurated.
During President Moubarak’s visit to Japan in April 1983, the Japanese government decided to make a donation to Egypt for the construction of the Cairo Opera House. The construction began in May 1985 and was completed in about three years. The new Cairo Opera House opened on October 10th, 1988, 17 years after the original Royal Opera House was burned down.
A huge, new, ivory-colored building, surmounted by two domes that emerge from an octagonal framework, stands in splendour in the center of the former Gezira-Fair ground. Its mysterious architecture is typical of Arab style buildings and is similar to the Casbah monuments. Fountains, arches, and loophole walls can be found on the interior grounds. Islamic filigree covering windows and balconies, making them invisible from the outside, is not only beautiful but also functional.
Surrounded to the east by the “El-Nil” gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, and the information center, to the south by El-Tahrir street, to the west by the Planetarium, and to the north by the side of the new Museum of Civilization. The structure, with its annexes, arcades, terraces, and high walls, resembles an oriental setting from the modern “Thousand and One Nights.”
All Egyptian artistic groups admire the main Opera hall. It is without a doubt Egypt’s largest, most beautiful, and most sophisticated theater. It is accessible via a variety of entrances. The hall has four levels and two upper circles, with seating for 1,300 people. The small hall, the second interior theater, with its wood-paneled walls and removable seats, can seat 500 people.
A joint Egyptian-Japanese programme was planned for the first ten days of the New Cairo Opera House’s opening. Egypt organised song recitals, musical and dance performances, while Japan showcased its famous “Kabuki” theatre, as well as other theatrical and dance groups. These were followed by a number of performances by international groups. Many foreign countries, in fact, had announced their participation in the form of ballet performances, musical or theatrical performances, or both.
Since 1988, the National Cultural Center, i.e. the Opera, has witnessed the development and growth of nine national companies. They are The Cairo Symphony Orchestra, The Cairo Opera Company, and seven other well-known organisations.
Although the Cairo Symphony Orchestra performed under this name for the first time in 1959, this institution’s artistic activity began some years earlier, when Egyptian Broadcasting formed a partnership with the orchestra to meet its need for music programmes. When Franz Litchauer, an Austrian conductor, became its music director, the orchestra grew. After months of hard work, he began to perform regular concerts at Cairo’s old Opera House. In addition to its regular symphonic concerts, it has accompanied foreign and local opera and ballet seasons in the old Cairo Opera House with companies such as the Bolshoi, the Kirov, and, most recently, the London City Ballet in the new Cairo Opera House.
Since 1990, the Cairo Symphony Orchestra has been a part of the new National Cultural Center, performing in all opera productions at the new Opera House, including “Figaro,” “Aida,” “Carmen,” “Tosca,” and “Don Giovanni,” as well as Cairo Opera Ballet Company productions such as “Don Quixote” and “Romeo and Juliet.”
The Cairo Opera Ballet Company is another well-known company performing at the new Opera. It was founded in 1966 and is affiliated with the High Institute of Ballet. Its members are coached by Soviet experts. “The Fountain of Bakhchisaray,” directed by Leonid Labrovsky, then director of the Bolshoi Theater, was the company’s first production. From that point forward, the company expanded its repertoire to include great ballet classics such as “Giselle” and “Swan Lake,” among others.
The Cairo Opera Ballet Company has performed on numerous international tours, first in the former Soviet Union and then in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Germany, France, and Tunis. The Cairo Opera Ballet Company is now officially affiliated with the new National Cultural Center; the company consists of 25 Egyptian dancers and 15 Russian dancers. The company recently presented two full-length ballets, “Romeo and Juliet” and “Don Quixote,” both of which were critically acclaimed.
The plays that were performed on the stages of the old and new Opera Houses came from a variety of sources and periods, ranging from ancient Rome to the modern era, and included the great English and French playwrights. All of these factors contributed to the birth and development of modern Egyptian theater, which came to represent purely Egyptian ways of thinking and feeling.
These arts are still evolving, and the Opera House continues to serve its purpose admirably, thanks to its adaptability and suitability for even the most recent arts and performances.