Frank Nuyts – Philippe Blasband – Johan Dehollander
In June 2000, the American President, Bill Clinton, held a summit at Camp David with Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority, and Ehud Barak, Israeli Prime Minister, to continue the peace negotiations and bring these to a positive outcome. The first negotiations were so promising that Barak even agreed to give up East Jerusalem. But when the discussions turned to Palestinian refugees and the right of return, the talks deteriorated to such an extent that the situation became critical. Peace seemed impossible. During the previous years, Israelis and Palestinians had never been so close, yet so far away, from peace as at that moment. It is impossible to ever know what exactly happened at Camp David. The Israeli and Palestinian negotiators lived in two parallel universes that were never going to come into contact with one another. Both parties blamed the negotiations’ impasse on the other party. We can, however, make one assumption: they all – Israelis and Palestinians – tried to achieve peace as if they were trying to win a war. The Palestinians continued to focus on laying down the final purpose of the negotiations, while the Israelis wanted to determine the starting points. And they all constantly returned to the fate of Al Qods, of Jerusalem. Ehud Barak refused to meet Arafat as long as the negotiators had not reached a compromise. And the negotiators never reached a compromise. On 25 July 2000, the consultations were ended by the parties. The second Intifada started at the end of September 2000. Yasser Arafat passed away on 11 November 2004. In 2001, the diplomatic discussions between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were looked forward to with hope. Never before did sustainable peace seem so close. The talks went so well at first that Barak even agreed to give up East Jerusalem. But when it came to the right of the Palestinian refugees to return, the heated discussions quickly reached boiling point. Peace seemed impossible.
In MIDDLE EAST, Philippe Blasband (an author and the scriptwriter of various films, including La femme de Gilles, Une liaison pornographique and Irina Palm) describes the failure of the peace negotiations between arch rivals Israel and Palestine. He focuses on the moment when both protagonists take their places at the negotiating table: the moment at which no one has spoken yet. What are they thinking? How can they discuss a reality that is so different for the both of them?
MIDDLE EAST is a hybrid chamber opera for two actors, a singer and an ensemble. The music is composed by Frank Nuyts. The director, Johan Dehollander, brings the situation into the here and now.
COMPOSITION Frank Nuyts
LIBRETTO Philippe Blasband
DIRECTION Johan Dehollander
ACTOR Thomas Bellinck
SINGER Sarah Maria Sun
ORCHESTRA Spectra Ensemble
MUSICA DIRECTION Philip Raté
SET DESIGN Stef Stessel
COPRODUCTION Spectra Ensemble, Operadagen Rotterdam & De Vlaamse Opera (Ghent)
Photographer: Kurt Van Der Elst