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Cairo Symphony Orchestra: Classical Masterclasses at Cairo Opera House
A typical programme at the orchestra is presented in three parts: first, an amuse bouche, usually a bright overture to distract listeners from latecomers shuffling in; second, the principal act featuring a headline soloist or guest performer; and third, after a brief intermission, a full-on multi-movement symphony.
Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 1, from the composer’s only opera Fidelio, opened the evening on a light note, while the more moving rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 overshadowed Yassa’s take on Rachmaninoff’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.
Led by guest conductor Mina Zikri, the ninety-piece orchestra played the third-set symphony with a gusto that would have brought the most hard-hearted to tears. The tragic, yet regal melody of its second movement was so enrapturing and masterfully rendered, that eyes in the audience were either shut in reverie or musing on the decorative ceiling and the grandeur of the main hall.
For a doyen of the country’s classical repertoire, expectations were set high. On a Steinway concert grand with its strings exposed, Yassa played the first bars of the second-set concerto with ease, when suddenly; the mood was botched by an unwelcome mobile phone, followed by an equally diverting spatter of rebuke.
But in spite of distractions, Yassa’s precision and showmanship prevailed; demonstrating how for him Rachmaninoff is a well-trodden stroll in the park.
Coattails and cravats donned by a prevalently senior crowd and ticket prices to match assert the stereotype that classical music is an acquired taste. But beyond the pomp display, jeans get away in the more affordable nosebleed section of the upper loges. A tie or shawl, however, is highly recommended.
When reserving seats it is better to steer clear of the balcony wings that offer poor visibility; avoid hateful eyes and switch off your mobile before entering the hall – or better yet, disconnect and ditch it altogether.
With only three months left in the season, the symphony orchestra promises tributes to Romantic masters like Strauss and Dvorak including a chorale performance by the Prague Mixed Choir later next month.
Gypsum Gallery is currently displaying its first ever group exhibition in co-operation with Nile Sunset Annex to mark the end of the season. What Are You Doing, Object? is the bizarre and controversial title that has been given to this showing and immediately implies a sense of confusion.
A series of sculptures and installations make up the open space where visitors can walk around to inspect the art at every angle. The first piece to greet our eyes was by Hassan Khan, titled Double Mirror, which featured a large wooden frame of some sort; a mirror on a brass stand and a miniscule head made from mud and straw. Usually when a mirror is present it signifies that the artist wants the viewer to be part of the artwork itself though seeing all of these objects together evokes many questions and screams doubt and confusion. What is the purpose? What is the meaning?
Upon further research it seems that this doubt and confusion is actually the entire purpose of the exhibition. When we see a table our eyes immediately send a message to our brain outlining the purpose of a table and stating the obvious fact that it is indeed a table, the same with a chair; a fridge, a shoe, or any known object. Yet what happens when we are met with an unfamiliar object? Our mind will work and work to try and solve the mystery. It seems that it is a code to be cracked and a puzzle to be solved… or perhaps it is simply art. Art does not require a purpose to exist nor does it need a name, but nevertheless it is there.
Ironically further into the exhibition there is a piece titled ‘Navigation’, by Sarah Samy; a kappa foam cut-out situated on the floor and resembles a jigsaw puzzle yet it is an incomplete puzzle without an answer.
Another interesting aspect about What Are You Doing, Object? is that all of the materials used to create each piece are those familiar to us: wood, brass, mud, plastic, foam and fiberglass; this gives us a tiny piece of information to work with, though much like the jigsaw puzzle by Sarah Ramy, the rest of the information is missing. What Are You Doing, Object? is an aesthetically pleasing collection first and foremost, but the beauty of it is that each piece in its autonomous state could mean absolutely anything, or nothing it all.