If you missed the première in Dubai last April and didn't make it to Byblos in Lebanon to catch the show at the festival, you can still watch a video clip that gives an idea of the breathtaking scale of the musical starring Carole Samaha -- the popular Lebanese singer and actress, who plays Zenobia. By all accounts, Zenobia, the Musical was a spectacular and moving experience.
Horses, camels, water falls and burning fires, live on stage, with an all-singing, all-dancing cast of hundreds. Some hint of this is on the clip. You'll also see Rahbani (and his talented sons) talking about the vision behind the epic.
But I still have a bone to pick with this great composer and writer.
"The audience witnesses history re-enacted, as Zenobia, one of the greatest Arab leaders of all time, fights for freedom from imperial oppression.”
I hate to be a spoilsport.
But, as I've said before and undoubtedly will say again, Zenobia was not an Arab. So it's worse than nonsense when she sings these final words:
I am the first cry of freedom,Zenobia lived hundreds of years before the Arab conquest of Syria. There's absolutely no reason to think that she was of Arab blood; on the contrary, everything we know about her points to the local Aramaic-speaking aristocracy mingled with Macedonian-Greek ancestry. In the Middle East, I don't think it mere pedantry to criticize a play for rewriting history.
the first cry from an Arabian land.
I am to give my blood for freedom. -
Especially since the play is pitched as based on fact. And has been taken as such by those who've seen it.
"History is a mirror of the future," says Oussama Rahbani (one of Mansour's sons). "If you don't have a history, you don't have a future."
Now, who can argue with that?
And I love the music.
My thanks to Aayko Eyma for alerting me to Rahbani's new video clip. There are also more amateur videos at YouTube (search on Zenobia).