Egypt is ripe with artistic talents that have constantly reshaped the region’s entertainment industries for decades if not centuries. From pop music to cinema blockbusters, Egyptians have been at the regional forefront, but what often goes unnoticed is their mark on other forms of art, like opera singing.
Egyptian soprano Fatma Said is among those who have broken artist ground on a global scale. Recently becoming the only non-European to snatch Germany’s prestigious ‘Best Young Artist 2021’, Said began her opera singing career at the age of 14 in Cairo, before taking off to Berlin to earn a degree in music. From there, she became the first Egyptian soprano to perform at the iconic Accademia del Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
Before earning Germany’s prestigious award last week, Said had been keeping busy performing at the Global Citizen Live event in Paris, alongside international mega stars the likes of Elton John.
Egyptian Streets catches up with the accomplished soprano as she opens up about her career, family, and future aspirations.
You’ve had quite a prolific career and received multiple awards, which do you cherish the most or has had the most impact on you until today?
Thank you! Every award has a special or important impact in my life. I remember my first singing competition I entered and the prize I received. This was so motivational to keep me going when I was 13 years old. Receiving an honorary award from the National Council for Women in Egypt also meant a lot to me because it made me realize, even more, that I carry a very big responsibility as a Middle-Eastern woman choosing the path I’ve chosen.
What has been the role of your family in your journey?
My family played a huge role in my journey, and they absolutely still do. A career in music is indeed a lot of fun, and full of really exciting adventures, however, it’s so important to have a support system that reminds you to stay grounded and always come back to yourself. Distraction is so easy in show business. My family has always been there to make sure I stay true to myself, and always know that I have a strong back to lean on.
On that note, do you believe every artist needs a supportive family?
I believe that every artist definitely needs a support system. This can be a family, it can be a group of friends, and it can be a partner or someone special. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a family.
What was your breakthrough moment, or event, in your opinion?
It’s hard to answer this question because my personal breakthrough in my eyes could be achieving something technical in my singing that nobody ever got to witness. I set goals for myself, and I’m very happy when I reach these goals. It does feel like a breakthrough for me personally because it certainly affects my performances positively as well. However, the term breakthrough makes me rather anxious because it makes me feel like I’ve achieved ‘it’ while I believe there is no ‘it’.
What’s your biggest moment on stage?
Very recently, I’ve had the chance to perform at the Global Citizen event in front of about 25.000 people. I think this was one of the most important performances in my life.
How did you end up performing in Global Citizen Live in Paris? What is it?
Global Citizen is an international education and advocacy organization working to catalyse the movement to defeat poverty, demand equity and protect the planet. This year, they decided to create several music concerts in different cities in the world one of them was Paris and invite very prominent artists, public speakers, world leaders and organisations to support the different causes raised by Global Citizen. It’s also to encourage people to support action on pressing environmental issues through monetary pledges, for example.
What was your best moment at the festival?
I can’t recall the best moment because all of it was a rather overwhelming experience that kept me on a high the whole time. The event was filled with positivity throughout, and it was so beautiful to see how music can bring people together and motivate people to take positive actions to make this world a more sustainable one to live in.
Who were some of the celebrities you ran into, and do you remember being given a memorable comment at the event?
When I arrived at the venue, I was immediately shown my way to my caravan, which was basically like the dressing room for every artist and their team. My caravan was right beside the Black Eyes Peas’. It was incredible just reading their name on the caravan’s door, knowing that they’re just next door. Meeting some of them personally was, of course, amazing! Also, meeting Elton John was a huge honor. I’ve always been the biggest fan since I was a young girl. He was so kind to me, and I was so surprised that he actually listened to my latest album “El Nour”.
What are your hopes for the future of opera singing in Egypt?
I hope that the younger generation can be more aware of opera as an art form. I think it’s a very important and special art; I am sure that if we dig into the Egyptian population, we will find so many very unique voices that have huge potential. To be acquainted with opera in Egypt, we certainly need an educational system that includes classical music in its curriculum, that is the first step to take to eventually see a future of opera careers blossoming in Egypt, and internationally.
What is one stage you still wish to conquer?
I hope I can conquer people’s hearts.
What do you say to Egyptians who want to follow in your footsteps?
I know it might sound a little bit cliché, but it’s really true and easier said than done: work very hard, and never give up no matter all the difficulties you’ll face. “Victory happens after 10.000 hours of work and one moment of opportunity.” That’s what My father always told me and my siblings. It’s all about the hard work, and the amount of hours we put into anything we do.
Upcoming performances by Fatma Said
Nov 20 and 21, 2021 – Paris, France – Chapelle Royale de Versailles