Beirut – Premiered 22 years ago at Casino du Liban, the late artist Mansour Al-Rahbani’s musical drama, Summer 840, was restaged Aug. 8-12 at the finale of the Byblos International Theatre Festival in Jbeil. Chair of the festival committee Latifa Lakis declared that she was grateful to be presenting his work. She affirmed the play’s importance, saying, “It will add to the great legacy of the Jbeil Citadel.”
The work recounts an important event in Lebanon’s history, the Ammiyah of Antelias on June 7, 1840, when Lebanese leaders of all sects and faiths swore to stand together against Emir Bachir II, the chief ally of the French and Egyptians in Lebanon. It tells of a love that raged between Saif Al-Bahr, an Ammiyah rebel, and Mira, the daughter of one of Emir Bachir’s highest officers.
It also depicts the oppression of a people who sought only strength and liberation for themselves. The tale ends tragically, however, with the death of Saif Al-Bahr, who appears in the closing scene bearing a flag and saying, “One occupier has departed; another has arrived. I shall fight until we are rid of all occupiers.”
At the opening reception of the play, Al-Rahbani’s son Ghaddi likened the present to the past, saying, “How today resembles the past! Western interests continue to interfere in our land, rulers’ tyranny persists and a people still yearns for freedom.”
Just as Mansour Al-Rahbani dedicated Summer 840 to his brother, Assi, after his death, Mansour’s children, Ghaddi, Marwan, and Osama, dedicated its restaging to their father.
Marwan Al-Rahbani said, “Some changes had to be made to the play, given the changes that have taken place between 1987 and 2009. It was also originally shown in a closed theatre, whereas today, the play is shown in the open air. This required changes in the lighting and sound production.” No changes, however, were made to the original score.
Sources: Voice of Lebanon/ Future/ LBC