Tunisia holds first edition of opera events

Ballet director Karim Touwayma said the programme was an opportunity to revive and modernise Tunisia’s heritage and culture of dance.
Saturday 31/08/2019
A scene from “Dido and Aeneas” by Henry Purcell, presented by Tunis’s Orchestra and Choir of the Opera conducted by Hichem Amari. (City of Culture)
New vision. A scene from “Dido and Aeneas” by Henry Purcell, presented by Tunis’s Orchestra and Choir of the Opera conducted by Hichem Amari. (City of Culture)

TUNIS - As Tunisia’s summer festivals drew to a close, the Theatre of Hammamet welcomed the first “Opera Theatre Evenings,” featuring a variety of programmes produced by the Tunisian Opera Theatre.

Events August 20-23 promoted Tunisian productions of ballet, symphony and opera. Future editions are planned for theatres throughout Tunisia, taking fine arts to audiences that do not generally have access to such performances.

“This festival is meant to introduce the productions of the theatre of opera and serve as an opportunity to bring them to other regions of Tunisia,” said Monia Messadi, Tunisian Opera Theatre director. “This is the first big project of the Opera Theatre, to host a festival to take these shows, the production of opera theatre, to other regions.

“It will be a reference for future editions. It will host and feature all of the productions that are 100% Tunisian and introduce them to a different audience than the one in the capital.”

The festival opened with a performance by the Tunisian Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Mohamed Lassoued. Hichem Amari, director of the City of Culture’s Music and Opera section, described the performance as a fruitful collaboration.

“This is a project that is both elemental and experimental,” said Amari. “The music pole has a lot to offer. It seeks to introduce the idea of opera to people and it had a rather pedagogical aspect. This year, we have our own Tunisian Opera.”

Other programmes featured the ballet “The Four Seasons” and various open-air performances. As the audience entered ahead of “The Four Seasons” production, they were greeted by dancers performing solo routines at the entrance and the garden’s pathways.

Nesrine Chaabouni, who directs the City of Culture’s ballet and choreographic arts section, said the performance was important in bringing out more than the technical component of dance, allowing it to connect with its context and environment.

“Hammamet is a one-season town with shows only during the summer and we wanted to show ‘The Four Seasons’ to suggest the idea of making the town cultural throughout the four seasons. It is also symbolic because ‘The Four Seasons’ was the first production of ballet,” Chaabouni said.

“This show also reflects the state and feelings of Tunisian youth after the political changes.”

She said the mood of young Tunisians wavered between happiness, sadness and anxiety.

Ballet director Karim Touwayma said the programme was an opportunity to revive and modernise Tunisia’s heritage and culture of dance.

“The ballet is one of the first projects to be founded in the dancing scene that combines modern and traditional forms of dance,” said Touwayma. “We seek to preserve the tradition, which is why we work on the national repertoire, and on modernising the Tunisian heritage for more accessibility internationally wide.

“For the Hammamet show, we organised performances at the entrance off stage and on stage. Every dance routine introduced a new quality and a new vision that is both modern and international.”

Messadi said the show was an important step to bringing Tunisian opera outside Tunis.

The festival concluded with “Dido and Aeneas” by Henry Purcell, presented by Tunis’s Orchestra and Choir of the Opera conducted by Amari.

“Opera is new to Tunisian audience but it has been well-received,” Amari said. “It is the first time in the history of Tunisia that we have had a national opera production, which required a lot of effort. This opera, ‘Dido and Aeneas,’ treats the audience to a new aspect.”

Messadi agreed that it was a landmark opportunity for Tunisia. “Even for me, it was the first time to attend an opera in Tunisia,” she said. “We have not had many opera or ballet shows coming to Tunisia.”

“It is good to have Tunisia producing its own opera and ballet shows with their own competences. It is an occasion to see the productions of the different departments for the City of Culture. This first edition was a success and we will be visiting other towns with the next editions and more Tunisian productions,” she said.

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