The Lebanese singer, Heba Tawaji, is celebrating these days with the great welcome he received in New York, together with the cast of the play “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, in which she plays the role of the first female lead.
Since the first offers of work there, which began on the 13th of this month with an impressive opening ceremony, the audience has been standing and applauding for a long time at the end of the show in admiration of what it sees. Heba Tawaji plays the first lead role in the play, embodying the role of Esmeralda, the charming gypsy girl, with the actor Angelo Del Vecchio, who plays the role of the hunchback and the ringer Casimodo, on the stage of the David H. Cottage» at the prestigious Lincoln Center.
Heba Tawaji told Asharq Al-Awsat that she is very happy to play a role of this importance on one of the most important theaters in the world. Tawaji explains that she will be hosting 13 shows until the 24th of this month, which means that on some days she will perform two shows in one day. This does not diminish her determination. On the contrary, “the audience receives the show with great enthusiasm, applause, and waits for us outside to take pictures, and it touches me and all of us in the band, and gives us determination.”
The musician Osama Rahbani, who is in New York and attended the opening ceremony, describes the hospitality with which the show was “incredible”, and that the audience stood and applauded for the work and the artists for 10 minutes. He described Heba as “very clear in her performance, and that the many congratulations she received and encouragement increased her popularity.” He pointed out that personalities, and artists, attended the play. Among them, Yuga Wang, one of the most famous pianists in the world, congratulated Heba and posed with her.
Screenshot of the play (Heba Tawaji’s Twitter page)
The French musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, based on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece of the same name, has been published for almost 25 years. Heba Tawaji was chosen to play the role of Esmeralda in the play, which opens in 2016, after it was performed by the famous singer Helen Segara. Which opened the door wide for her to stand on the stages of the most famous theaters in the world. From the Palais des Congrès in Paris six years ago, Heba Tawaji set out on her tours with The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She says: “We have performed in Russia, Turkey, Lebanon, Belgium and Switzerland, and we have toured Taiwan and China. There is also a great love for the play, and we have about three months in Canada and the West End in tour London, the capital of musical theater, and then landed We traveled to New York, whose dates were postponed twice, due to the “Corona” pandemic We were supposed to show here a few years ago. ” Heba Tawaji is very happy: “Because New York is a city full of art, culture and musicals, always full of life and parties.” And she continues: “To be in such a cultural and entertainment capital is very important for me and the whole theater team. We have a beautiful feeling, and we see how the audience applauds us and stands for a long time, after the end of each show.”
Heba Tawaji quickly moved from a Lebanese star who shone on the Rahbani stage, through her close and unique collaboration with Osama Rahbani, to “The Voice” France, where she sparkled and attracted attention, and from there to the ” Hadab Notre Dame” tournament, which brought her to New York. But Heba Tawaji believes that the road was not that easy. “Before (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) I acted in a musical in 2007, which is (The Return of the Phoenix), written by the great Mansour Al-Rahbani, music and production by Osama Al-Rahbani, which means that I started from a very big, important and respectable place 15 years ago, and this is the place from where I started and I’m still in it, he gives me experience and a significant background, which helps me wherever I go , to remain immune , through my work, with Osama Rahbani in particular.” And she continues: “After (The Return of the Phoenix), I presented the women’s championship in 4 musicals, and I was a young age, in addition to all the albums, works and concerts that we did together in the Arab world and the tracks which they continue to offer. All this helped me a lot, to take on my new responsibilities and to continue and continue on my path.”
The young Lebanese star has experienced the art of handling an audience in the East as well as in the West, and she has become an expert in understanding the psychology of spectators over their differences. “Each country has its own culture and way. of expression. There are people who express more sharply than others, and another audience is calmer in expression. This does not mean that they do not appreciate what they see. For example, when we performed in China and Taiwan, it was remarkable how quiet the hall was. What I myself have seen and noticed is that during the performance we do not hear a hiss. To this extent, they respect what goes on on stage. But after the show ended, the applause, enthusiasm and shouting we hear from the audience is truly impressive and unexpected. It has to do with the nature of each nation. But wherever we go, the play has been running for 25 years, and that is a sign of great success and also a sign of people’s love.” In 2016, the official re-launch of the play, from then to today, Tawaji travels the world and, commenting on the reactions to the work, says: “We see the audience love it, demand it and cheer it for a long time . time. Some sing with us, some cry, people laugh and others clap. The beauty of New York is the diversity of the audience. There are Americans, but there is an audience of different nationalities, and it is very beautiful and makes the heart happy.”
Heba Tawaji’s track is exceptional, perhaps unmatched on the Arab artistic level. “An international musical at this level, I don’t think it has been made available to another Arab artist. Maybe it’s true, but I prefer not to talk about others, but to say that I live a global opportunity to perform a female lead in a French musical that travels the world is a big step . In the end I sing in front of an audience from all over the world, I don’t think that happened to another Arab artist. But I could be wrong.”
Heba Tawaji does not know how many times she played the role of Esmeralda, “but there is no doubt that I played my role more than 500 times, because in each country we tour, sometimes for a long time.”
Currently, Tawaji is preparing to release a new album with Osama Rahbani, it is in the end, and some songs are supposed to start appearing soon. Tawaji describes it as “a very diverse album with the nature of its songs, music, production and subjects, and we’ve been dealing with new people, it’s added a different spirit to the album, and I’m excited for people to hear it because it has big surprises.” Explaining that work on the album is taking place between Lebanon, Paris and New York, Osama Rahbani says: “It takes a month and a half to be released, and two tracks have been filmed so far, and other tracks will be recorded soon . He believes that his artistic success with Heba Tawaji is due to her ability and talent. Music work must receive it and interact with it. It is a game (table tennis), its success depends on two parties.”
Since its launch in 1998 by producers Luc Blamandon and Richard Couchiant, the play, adapted from the famous novel by French author Victor Hugo, has toured 23 countries around the world and been presented in nine languages, but New York audiences have loved the show watched in French. with English subtitles.