Legendary Egyptian Opera Singer to Speak at Met’s La Traviata this Saturday

Nabila Erian featured on magazine cover
Nabila Erian featured on magazine cover

One of the first Egyptian opera singers, Soprano Nabila Erian, will be speaking prior to the Met Opera screening of La Traviata this Saturday at the Malak Gabr Arts Theater. The performance will be broadcast live from New York to more than 2,000 theaters in 70 countries. The Sharjah Art Gallery will also feature Verdi and Egypt exhibition at 6:30 pm that day. 

La Traviata, or The Fallen WomanLa Dame aux Camelias, is set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Piave, adapted from a novel by Alexandre Dumas. Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, the opera is divided into three acts and traces the tragic love story of the main character Violetta. The role of the courtesan, Violetta, has remained highly regarded and praised as a challenging and dynamic soprano role within the operatic world. The part requires many years of experience, as each act features very particular vocal skills. It was originally performed in 1853 the La Fenice opera house in Venice. 

Erian was the first Egyptian to sing La Traviata at the Cairo Opera House in 1964, before the fire of 1971. She is considered to be the youngest soprano to perform the role of Violetta, and her Arabic performance was regarded as particularly impressive given the pronunciation challenges of the language. She continued to perform for an entire month that year and went on to perform every season for the next 20 years. In the 17 years after the burning of the original Cairo Opera House, Erian performed at AUC’s Ewart Memorial Hall on several occasions until the current opera house was inaugurated in 1988. 

Erian attended the University of Maryland, writing her PhD dissertation on Coptic music in Egypt. She then began her professional opera career in 1960 and has since toured internationally, performing in numerous operas. She was received praise for her illustrious career, presented with an award by Gamal Abdel Nasser at Eid al-Ilm in 1964, a few months following her performance in La Traviata. Erian taught at the Cairo Conservatoire, part of Egypt’s Academy of Arts, as a professor of vocal sciences. Now retired, she returns to the conservatoire once a week to supervise graduate studies candidates and share her expertise.