Mozart in Baghdad


Amid continuing bloodshed involving Iraqis, Americans, Palestinians, and Israelis, the Baghdad Symphony Orchestra is preparing to strike a different note in the region: It's rehearsing for a July concert featuring Mozart's Symphony No. 40. That symphony's opening is known as the "rocket" theme, by the way.

Middle East Online's Marc Carnegie reports that even though the orchestra's director was injured in the bombing and cannot play his clarinet, even though one violinist has befriended Americans and now fears Islamist reprisal, even though rehearsal time has been severely cut back due to the danger in the streets, even though members haven't been paid since before the war (and the U.S.-appointed head of Iraq's culture ministry failed to show up for a meeting), even though the performance of classical music is a challenge to Islamists, the orchestra is nonetheless going forward.

"We were the first symphony orchestra in the Arab world," said director Hisham Sharaf. "All we can do is keep performing our music and hope for the best. This is our lives."

Thanks to Arts Journal.


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  1. (trying to not feed the Trolls)-

    Bravo for artists- this reminds me of a piece in Salon about the first (non-censored) play to open at the Baghdad theatre in 30 years. As nice as our nation building is, it’s the grass-roots volunteer actions like this that are going to actually rebuild Iraqi civil society.

    Speaking of civil society, there’s another article in Salon today, about the Shiite resurgence and it’s affect on Women’s fashion (i.e. the Hijab). The best part comes at the end, when one Iraqi woman is quoted as essentially saying “It’s our problem- we’ll deal with it”.

    They’re going to be just fine…

  2. Two corrections-

    a) The article about Iraqi womens fashion is today’s Christian Science Monitor, rather than Salon.

    b) The fashion in question is the Abaya, rather than the hijab- oops…

  3. Classical concerts in Baghdad are cool, but what they really need are some good raves. That’s the way to fight the fundies – after all, raves drive our own fundies (and-not-so-fundies) nuts.

  4. And they don’t have a Rave Act in Iraq either! Yet.

    Will be interesting to see if Iraq winds up a place with more freedom than the US of A. Yeah, probably wildly optimistic but we seem to be achin’ to get rid of it over here.

  5. but I thought the occupation is a QUAGMIRE and a DISASTER!

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