Interview with Egypt’s soprano star Amira Selim

Since her participation in the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade and performing the magnificent Isis Hymn, Amira Selim became one of the most popular soprano voices in Egypt, and her popularity crossed the walls of the opera and reached the hearts of the common.

SEE interviewed “today’s Isis” in a talk about her career in the realm of opera.

Starting with the soprano star by asking her about the latest participation at the 20th Anniversary of the opening of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She performed The Queen of the Night aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Furthermore, she shared the stage with the talented Egyptian conductor Nayer Nagui, and the world-famous Egyptian pianist Ramzi Yassa.

Selim answered: “The celebration was a grand occasion as it was dedicated to the 20th anniversary of opening the BA. It was like sending another glorious and civilized message to the world after the epic Pharaoh’s Golden Parade, especially since the event took place in such a historical city as Alexandria.”

She continued: “When Nagui contacted me, I didn’t hesitate. We decided together that the best composition to resonate with the event is “The Queen of the Night.”

“This aria is extraordinary because it requires certain vocal flexibility and royal figure-like presence but in a more classic way which could be corresponded with the previously presented in Isis at the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade.

In addition, it wasn’t the first time for me to perform this role, I acted it several times in Europe, and Egypt, so I am familiar with its preparations, and training.”

“Moreover, it wasn’t my first time to work with Nagui. I had my first live performance with him, so we know each other well, the harmony exists. In addition, the presence of a great musical figure as Ramzi Yassa was exceptional.”

After that, Selim was asked about her first connection to opera and its connected arts as she was born to a father who was an artist, and a mother who is a professional pianist.

“Since I was young, I spent a lot of time in the opera and its backstage world, alongside, at the same time, I toured several galleries and exhibitions. So, this world sparked my curiosity. I loved to act some of the characters I watched.”

One of the impressive performances Selim presented in her career is Hamlet’s Ophelia. There is no doubt that Ophelia is one of the most celebrated female characters in the history of drama.

Her melancholy, nocturne, and madness formed a mysterious symphony in her own escalated self.

She always draws the artists’ eyes. In addition, in terms of singing and music, Ophelia hath her own ballads, as well as her tragic death.

On performing Ophelia, Selim described: “Ophelia in the world of opera still carries her emotional and psychological disorders. She madly loves Hamlet, however, she is still a fragile person.

In terms of acting, and singing, this character is deeply challenging. I still remember that the director set up a small lake-like decoration, and there was running water and mud around me to act the scene of her death.

Delivering the contradictory emotions of the character whether in the phase of madness or death needs certain vocal skills, so it is one of my favorite appearances.”

The artist added: “There is always a strong bond between literature and the world of opera. The principle of adaptation always exists. Therefore, presenting those characters from books on the opera stage needs exceptional preparation as all participants study the character thoroughly, and dive deeply into the realms of their various sides.

Every aspect of each character is accurately transcribed in notes and tunes, so the performer should deliver these musical tunes with the characters’ spirits.”

As the talk about opera continued, the Egyptian soprano was asked about the Egyptian opera stars who influenced her.

“There are several stars who inspired me, and I hope one day the contributions of those figures be well documented. One of those names is the legendary Ratiba El Hefny. El Hefny played a vital role in the scene in Egypt. She was a professional, hard-working, charismatic, and innovator.

Her opera appearances were always influential. The same goes for Carmen Zaki. She was one of the earliest soprano voices in Egypt. Also, the Egyptian tenor Sobhy Bedeir, and of course Reda El-Wakil, alongside Amira Kamel, and her brother Soliman Gamil.”

“Those artists influenced us, and passed us the flame, so, our duty is to give them the appreciation they deserve.

The new generations should be introduced to those shining marks in the history of opera, especially since the majority of the Egyptians don’t know the roots of this art in Egypt back to the 1960s, and 1970s, and the contributions they left behind to build this scene in Egypt.”

She highlighted that composing original Egyptian opera compositions still needs more improvement, and depending on the ancient Egyptian musical rituals could help in presenting a mature form of Egyptian opera compositions, and Selim shed light on Sayed Darwish’s contributions in such art.

Selim explained: “Sayed Darwish was one of the influential marks in the progress of opera arts in Egypt. He introduced many operettas and he was deeply influenced by the French opera style and re-introduced them in the Egyptian way.”

“I performed several songs for Darwish in Europe. One of those songs was “Eh El Ebarah”. It means a lot to me to re-introduce such Egyptian heritage. I and my mother are huge fans of his music, so we teamed up to re-introduce his music in a revolutionary style which combines the grand style of opera, and the musical spirit of the iconic composer.”

Next, the soprano star was asked about her experience in performing Isis’ prayer in the Pharaoh’s Golden Parade.

“Isis prayer helped in re-introduced opera arts to the common, I still receive positive feedback for the event. It was a bright mark, and it helped in bridging between the Egyptian audience, and the grand classic art.”

Selim added: “I spent two months adapting to Isis, and the dress helped me to feel the spirit of such goddess, it was like my temple. So, the dress was an essential part to feel the real Isis.”

Finally, the Egyptian artist concluded the interview by recalling her feelings while watching the performance for the first time.

She said: “I watched the concert after a week. I remember that I cried when I watched it for the first time. I saw the experience I felt presented before my eyes. It was breathtakingly unbelievable.”

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