Two Contemporary Arab Composers Revive Kahlil Gibran’s First Novel, "Broken Wings"
By Emiliya Strahilova/Arab America Contributing Writer
Broken Wings is a lyrical novel about the young Kahlil Gibran and his first love, Selma, in Lebanon. The story was published in 1912 and now the acclaimed musician, Dana Al Fardan, from Qatar and the Lebanese-English West End star, Nadim Naaman, (The Phantom of the Opera) are recreating it in the form of a musical. The premiere of the semi stage production with a 9-piece orchestra will be at Theatre Royal Haymarket in London, August 1-4.
After releasing two singles from the upcoming show, the producers announced the full cast:
Nadim Naaman is a co-writer of Broken Wings music but will also perform; he is going to narrate as Gibran. By his side will be Hiba Elchikhe (Princess Jasmine in the Australian production of Disney’s Aladdin) as Selma Karamy and Rob Houchen (Marius in the West End production of Les Misérables and Titanic at Charing Cross Theatre) as Gibran’s teenage self. The whole list of the remaining cast comes from the supreme layer of the UK opera and theater stage.
Kahlil Gibran, who is the third most read poet in the world, inspired generations with the beauty and the refinement of his words but also with his integrity, high values, and personal example. His family moved to the US when he was 12 looking for a better life but he always honored his heritage and he was writing in both English and Arabic. His philosophy and philanthropy are still relevant today and his dedication for bringing bright changes in the world made him a positive symbol of Middle Eastern immigrants who become successful in the West and never forget their roots.
Co-author of Broken Wings musical, Nadim Naaman says:
“Kahlil Gibran is the Shakespeare of The Middle East. His views transcend nationality, politics, and background, read by all faiths and all ages. He was spiritual, but wouldn’t dedicate his life to one particular organization of religion. Instead, he took the best of all faiths, championing humanity, tolerance, and love above all else. I still can’t believe that the book hasn’t already been adapted for the stage; it is structured like a play and is awash with musical references. Much like Kahlil Gibran’s life, the creation of this show has been a fusion of both The Middle East and The West, so to be presenting this piece in London, at the stunning Theatre Royal Haymarket, is both fitting and overwhelming.”
Part of the Broken Wings stellar cast
Nadim Naaman has numerous appearances in the theater and in various orchestras, and apparently, he also creates his own music.
It’s the first time Naaman works in collaboration with Dana Al Fardan. The revolutionary Qatari female composer has experience with composing for the cinema but this is her debut in writing music for a musical. Arab America reached her and asked her for her insight into this new adventure in her career journey. “I’ve never written a musical! Yet it is what I’ve always wanted to do and the reason I got into music in the first place.” Dana admitted and she continued: ”Nadim is one of the most talented all-around artists I have ever worked with. Being given the opportunity to work with a West End Star was a dream for me and although we worked remotely, he still was able to provide me with clear guidelines for what was expected of my compositions. He taught me everything I know about the process of writing a musical.”
Dana founded the Qatari music record label DNA and proclaimed its motto: Music is our DNA. She is well known and respected in Qatar and world-famous performers and composers are proud of being part of her creative team. She highlighted more than once how her country of Qatar is culturally progressive and how it is continuously encouraging arts. Having said that and linking it to Gibran’s ideals, it’s arguable how open the Middle Eastern societies are in various regions.
Broken Wings is an autobiographical tale of Gibran’s youth in Lebanon and abroad. At the age of 18, he returned to his home in Beirut and fell in love with a girl who was betrothed to someone else who is a bad character but wealthy. The tragedy is Gibran and his beloved Selma can’t be together because of fake morals. A touchy issue that the novel deals with is the lack of women’s rights at the time. When asked how she (Dana) identifies herself with the subject of the story, Dana responds that even if we tend to bend under social pressures against our truth, this book reminds us that in order to better serve our community and our family, we got to be whole within ourselves. Furthermore, Dana has optimistic views about the role of women and women’s rights in the Middle East in general. She believes there has been a massive improvement: “We cannot categorize The Middle East as one monolithic entity but the issue of freedom to marry who you love for the sake of love is a global matter and something that will find a home in the hearts of many.”
At the end of our conversation, Dana promised that, hopefully, Broken Wings will travel to the US where Gibran lived for the most of his life. Nevertheless, coexistence and the realities of relocation are central for his work and the legacy he left.
For those Arab America readers who are willing to attend the premiere of the musical in London, there will be a promotional ticket price. (See below.)