Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Night and the Lantern

Al layil Wa Al Qandeil
(Casino Du Liban/Damascus 1963)
Booklet Summary:
The story of this operetta takes place in a small village where there is a shop selling all types of lanterns to satisfy the needs of the villagers and neighboring farmers. the shop is looked after by Mantoura, a good natured girl with a lovely voice. All the proceeds from the sales are placed in a bag hung in a corner of the shop and at the end of the year the money is shared by all the villagers at a Festival of song and dance. Hawlu is a vagabond who lives by a dark pass leading to the village, he and his friend Khatir had been annoying everyone by their mischievous deeds and the villagers are hunting them to give them the punishment they deserve. Hawlu, chased by the villagers arrives at Mantoura's shop and asks her to hide him. She, not knowing who he is, agrees to do so and Hawlu is saved. He is of course very grateful to her.
The villagers decide to place a large lantern by the dark pass to light the way for travelers but this doesn't suit Hawlu at all so he calls at the shop and tells Mantoura that he will break it if it is placed in position. Mantoura sings to him and so charms him by her song that he relents and departs to join his friend. Meanwhile, Mantoura goes home to put on her prettiest clothes for the festival taking place that evening. While she is away, Hawlu and Khatir return to the shop and after failing to persuade Hawlu to smash the big lantern, Khatir suggests that Hawlu should steal the bag of money hanging in the shop. Hawlu does so, and disappears towards his hiding place.
Mantoura returns dressed in her colorful costume looking forward to a very enjoyable evening but she discovers that the bag of money is gone. Worried and upset she tells the villagers when they arrive for the festival and they become very angry holding Mantoura responsible because of her carelessness. She accepts the blame, and deciding to leave the village closes the shop and puts out its light. Suddenly Hawlu appears and tells everyone that he stole the money and that he wishes to return it, having seen the light go out in the shop, and realizing the distress caused to Mantoura. While the villagers are checking the money he takes the big lantern and makes his way to the pass. When the villagers look up they see the pass brightly lit and to complete their happiness Khatir arrives with a message from Hawlu expressing the wish that Mantoura will stay and with her beautiful singing guide strangers to the village.
Quick Notes:
One of the early plays written by the Rahbani Brothers, it is simple and enchanting. At one point the villagers ask the night to get darker and let their lanterns shine brighter. A very beautiful image in the song Atem ya Layl. Although not as long as the other plays, it gets the message across. I don't know but prior to listening to the play, I was expecting Hawlu to be funny and be played by Philemon Wehbe.
Unfortunately, the entire play is placed on one track. However, the audio quality is pretty good.

Album Tracks:
1. We Dawi Ya Hal Andil
2. Nehna Men Essahl
3. Enna Anadil
4. Atem Ya Leyl
5. Jayee/Jbali
6. Ya Mantoura
7. Warde el Helwe Zelane
8. Yammel Assawer
9. Fayek Alayi
10. Bel Awal Ma'erefto
11. Ma'ereftini
12. Chou Betkouloulhon?
13. Za'altak Chi?
14. Ya Ammi Nasri
15. Laweyn Ya Hawlu
16. Ya Ent Betkassro
17. Wayn Ento
18. Ya Ahali Edday'a
19. Hawlo Hawlo
20. Hayda Khater
21. Wedawi Ya Hal Andil

(55'51" VDLCD 570)

Fairuz ... Mantoura
Nasri Shameseddine ... Nasri (Alharess)
Huda ... Deeba
Joseph Azar ... Hawlu
William Haswani ... Khater
Joesph Nassif ... 'atef
Marwan Mahfouz ... Fares
Words and Music by the Rahbani Brothers.
Directed by Sabri Sharif.

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