My Personal List of the Best Lebanese Classical Musicians

Where shall I begin *breathe Christine, breathe*; Alright! So today, there was this big hype regarding a Lebanese Violinist and I decided to simply check it out of curiosity. Classical Music as we all know, is an Art that goes beyond the realms of aesthetics; it is exquisitely delicate and unfortunately, because of the lack of proper Music Education in our culture, our society is breeding and applauding Music assassins. Yes, I am calling them assassins and no, I do not believe that I am being harsh.

In Lebanon, there are three categories of Classical Musicians:

  1. The Music Assassins: Those who are untalented; have zero knowledge about Classical Music and Classical training; and are being financially endorsed for their physical looks.
  2. The Music Wannabes: Those who do have talent; those who defend the Music Assassins; travel abroad in order to pursue their Musical Education in proper institutions BUT come back to Lebanon spreading lies about their careers; backstabbing other Lebanese Talents in their field and building some new sort of persona such as “The International Tenor” or “The First Tenor of the Middle East” (erm…last time I checked your name was not on the list between Bruson, Domingo, Pavarotti, Bergonzi, Florez, Alagna, Monaco, Stefano…).
  3. The Classical Musicians: Those who are extremely talented; those who are humble towards their art; those who have been accepted and even invited to be part of Master Classes and work with legendary giants in the Classical field; those who partook in audition after audition; those who have worked on their art every single day of their lives for years and are still studying, practising, learning, suffering; those who are asked to perform for free (cause how difficult is it to open your mouth and sing Opera, or how hard is it to tap on some white and black keys on the Piano right?); those who are being known in the West and ignored in the Middle East because of a petty and futile society.

I guess I have rambled enough for now; without further ado, let me share with you my personal list of remarkable Lebanese Classical Musicians whom I believe are a pride to our society (in no particular order):

  1. Patrick Fayad: PIANIST: Attended the School of Music at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), graduated with a high degree at Paris’ École Normale, and obtained the “Grand Prix a l’unanimite from the Conservatoire International in Paris.  In 2013 he joined the International Music Academy in Switzerland and studied under Kostantin Scherbakov, Peter Feutchwander and Paul Badura Skoda. He also participated in a Masterclass with Hamish Milne know for his recording of Nikolai Medtner.  Patrick studied under Alice Chemali and Nawal Chaghouri in Lebanon, and Germaine Mounier and Danielle Laval in France. He further developed his pianistic technique for six years with France Clidat, often referred to as Dame Liszt.Patrick has performed in Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria, and Lebanon. He joined Danielle Laval in a project of the Double Piano Concerto of Poulenc and in 2015 he adjudicated at a piano competition at Notre Dame University in Louaize. Patrick presented Master-classes at the American Voices YES Academy in 2014 and is joining them again this year as faculty and performer.


2. Ribal Molaeb: VIOLIST: Born in Lebanon in 1992 Ribal started playing the violin at the age of six before discovering the Viola. He studied at the Lebanese High National Conservatory then continued his studies with Professor Samir Amouri. He was awarded third prize in the Margot Babikian chamber music competition. At the age of 17, Ribal continued his violin studies with Professor Thomas Riebl at Universität Mozarteum Salzburg in Austria. Molaeb has participated in several master-classes with musicians from the Berlin Philharmonie, Berlin StadtsOper and chamber music workshops under the guidance of Daniel Barenboim. Ribal has a scholarship from Vienna and is currently studying at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna with Professor Thomas Selditz. He has performed in concerts all over Europe and China with several European and Viennese Orchestras and at the Hohenstaufen Chamber Music Festival. He currently plays in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with Maestro Daniel Barenboim. Ribal has performed several solo recitals in Lebanon as well. He is also an active member in the Jamil Molaeb Museum, Ribal is the founder of ”Molaeb Festival for Chamber Music and Fine Arts” in his home town, where he aims to make classical music and fine arts closer to people.


3. Roula Baaklini: COMPOSER: As Safir daily newspaper published on February 6, an interview with music composer and professor at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Roula Baakline, highlighting her successful musicology career. As such, Baaklini stated that she studied the history of music for 10 years at Saint Joseph University and another year at Notre Dame University and was recommended by her advisor to follow up musical composition in the United States. She applied to New Orleans University and received a scholarship. She later moved to Texas Tech University where she got her doctorate degree in composition and returned to Lebanon in 2012. Baaklini told the newspaper that a person who does not make it in his/her country, can never succeed abroad, noting that she is not well known in Lebanon because the public here is no longer a fan of classical music. “Musical composition is often classified as a male profession,” Baaklini added, “and women composers or orchestra conductors are only an exception.” “When I first said I wanted to become a musical composer, nobody took me seriously,” she said, adding: “in Lebanon it is difficult to be a woman, and even more if you want to become a composer.” Finally, Baaklini expressed her hope to be recognized one day as an international composer who thrived to develop a fusion of classical and oriental music.


4. Alionor Khalife: PIANIST: Aliénor Khalifé was born in September 1997. She started her first piano lessons with Mohammad Sebalbal in Tripoli and continued in 2004 with Mrs. Svart Sarkissian in Beirut. She has been a student at the National Music Conservatory in Lebanon since 2011. She won 1st prize in the children category at the 3rd edition of the National Music Competition of Lions of Tripoli in 2009, and 1st price in the 2nd category of the same competition in 2012. She took Masterclasses in Greece in 2011, Cadenza in London and Yes Academy at Notre Dame University in 2012, Crescendo in Hungary in 2013 and  Enharmonia in Spain in 2014.  Since November 2013, she has been in the piano-preparatory class, Nachwuchsförderklasse, at the Musikhochschule of Leipzig with Prof. Dietmar Nawroth. She has given concerts at the Music School in Leipzig and in Lebanon at the Safadi Center in Tripoli and at the American University of Beirut in 2013.


5. Rosalind Elias: OPERA SINGER, Mezzo-Soprano: Elias (born March 13, 1929) is an American mezzo-soprano, a rich-voiced singer of fine musicianship who enjoyed a long and distinguished career at the Metropolitan Opera.

Rosalind Elias was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the 13th and youngest child of a Lebanese-American family. She received her first singing lessons in Lowell from Miss Lillian Sullivan. She studied at the New England Conservatory. She appeared with the New England Opera from 1948-52. She then left for Italy to complete her vocal studies at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, with Luigi Ricci and Nazzareno De Angelis.

Elias made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Grimgerde in Wagner’s Die Walküre, on February 23, 1954. She sang 687 performances of 54 roles there, including Bersi inGiordano’s Andrea Chénier, the title role in Bizet’s Carmen, Rosina in The Barber of Seville, Laura in La Gioconda, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, Siebel in Faust, Nancy in Martha, Cherubino and Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro, Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, Olga in Eugene Onegin, Marina in Boris Godunov, Fenena inNabucco, Azucena in Il trovatore, Amneris in Aida, Charlotte in Werther, and The Witch in Hansel and Gretel. She created the role of Erika in Samuel Barber’s opera Vanessa on January 15, 1958, and the role of Charmian in Antony and Cleopatra by the same composer, for the opening of new Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, on September 16, 1966.

Elias also performed abroad, notably as La Cenerentola with Scottish Opera in 1970, as Carmen at the Vienna State Opera in 1972, and as Baba the Turk in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1975.

She made numerous recordings, including Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro under Erich Leinsdorf, Preziosilla in La forza del destino and Laura in La Gioconda, both oppositeZinka Milanov, Giuseppe Di Stefano and Leonard Warren, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly twice, first opposite Anna Moffo in 1957, and then opposite Leontyne Price in 1962, Azucena in Il trovatore opposite Leontyne Price, Richard Tucker, Giorgio Tozzi, as well as Maddalena in Rigoletto, Meg Page in Falstaff (both under Georg Solti in 1963) and Judith in Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. She was the mezzo/contralto soloist in concert works like Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette and the Verdi Requiem. The recording of ‘Figaro’ under Leinsdorf won a Grammy for Best Classical Performance, Opera Cast or Choral, at the Second Annual Grammy Awards, November 29, 1959.

In recent years, Elias has assumed the role of the Old Baroness in Vanessa, first performing the work at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, and later at the Los Angeles Opera in 2004 and at the New York City Opera in 2007.

Still in lustrous voice, Elias played the role of “Heidi Schiller” in a new revival of James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 musical Follies, which ran at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts from May 7, 2011 to June 19, 2011. She made her Broadway debut when the musical transferred to Broadway in a limited engagement from August 2011 through January 22, 2012.




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