Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—It appears that the Baalbeck International Festival will once again have to move out of its impressive setting among the Roman temple ruins in the Beqaa Valley, to which it returned on July 30 this year.
As the security situation in Lebanon continued to deteriorate, the festival administration announced on Monday a change of venue for La Musica Deuxième, a play featuring renowned French actors Gérard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant. The play will now be held at the Casino du Liban Theater in Jounieh, a coastal town north of Beirut, on August 31.
Islamist militants, believed to be part of the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, launched a sudden attack on the Lebanese army in the border town of Arsal over the weekend. The assault coincided with the concert by the world-famous Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu whose performance had also been moved from Baalbek to the same casino in Jounieh. Baalbek is located 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Arsal and the Syrian border.
Others stayed put. The festival was inaugurated with a performance by Assi El-Helani, a well-loved Lebanese singer, on the steps of the Bacchus Temple in Baalbek on July 30. The singer declined to take to the stage at any other venue. Despite security fears, performances have drawn big audiences, even at the shows in Baalbek, where the Lebanese can try to forget the tragedies unfolding at their country’s borders.
Although the Baalbek festival is yet to officially announce the postponement or relocation of other performances—Tunisian musician Dhafer Youssef is scheduled to perform on August 10 and Lebanese singer/songwriter Tanya Saleh on August 22—it is unlikely that Baalbek will be able to host the rest of the gala’s program.
The line-up and location of Lebanon’s other summer festivals, which are held far from the battlefields, remain unchanged. The internationally celebrated Belgium singer, Stromae, performed last night in Byblos, as part of the Byblos International Festival, to a packed audience. The show also goes on at the Beiteddine Art Festival, located 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of Beirut.
Lebanon may be experiencing a struggle between the advancement of terrorism and keeping its culture and festivals alive, but the Lebanese are largely undeterred. One lady, who attended a show by Dutch symphonic metal band Epica on Saturday in Byblos with her two young sons, said, “Lebanon remains unchanged since we were kids: we always love to live.”