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Arabian Moda’s Autumn/Winter Paper Edition — The Power Issue featuring Farrah El Dibany

Farrah El Dibany x Arabian Moda

Arabian Moda Proudly Presents
The Mezzo-Soprano Farrah El Dibany

It was on the evening of the April 24, 2022 when the French were mesmerized by the Egyptian Mezzo-Soprano Farrah El Dibany as she sang the national anthem during President Emmanuel Macron’s re-election soirée. In just a few years, El Dibany, known as the first Opera singer to join the Paris Opera Academy, has established an international career with sold-out concerts at prestigious venues and a couple of esteemed awards under her belt.

In an exclusive cover shoot and interview, Farrah talks about her upbringing, career highlights and that unforgettable performance in the city that has launched her into stardom.  

Farrah El Dibany wears Gemy Maalouf with jewelry from Garnazelle and Helena Joy.
Fashion Editor & Stylist: Victor Concepto
Photographer: Anna Muller 
Filmmaker: Pablo Ontoria
Hair & Makeup Artist: Maryna Armoudom from Team Lena Yasenkova
Location: Hotel Brach, Paris

AM: Farrah, your voice has captivated audiences around the world. When did you choose singing as a career?
I don’t remember the moment precisely because it wasn’t my aim to be a singer. I always liked performing and being on stage like a ballerina or a pianist. Maybe it occurred to me when I travelled to Germany to study opera singing professionally right after graduating from high school in Egypt. However, I also studied architecture at the same time so I can have a back-up plan in case my singing career doesn’t take off.

AM: To what do you attribute your success?
My parent’s support and my vocal coach in Egypt who was very encouraging and suggested I study in Germany. I think my close circles’ uplifting is really important. But it’s also my patience, as I am someone who has long endurance and persistence.

AM: Who were some of your childhood idols?
Professionally, I would say Dalida. She was my role model; I fell in love with her songs and her presence on stage. I looked up to my parents as well, especially my mother. She is a non-stop learner, she’s a banker and took courses while she was raising three children. She decided in her late forties to do her Executive MBA while flourishing in her work environment. And after retirement, she wanted to learn something new so she took piano lessons and participated in sports activities. She is constantly learning. Also, my dad is a constant dreamer, a person who is always innovative. Having all this helped me artistically. 

Farrah El Dibany x Arabian Moda

AM: You grew up in the picturesque city of Alexandria, and for those outside of Egypt, Alexandria is more of a hidden gem. What can you tell us about your hometown?
My hometown is a charming city. The coastal line in Alexandria is the most unique in the world, probably the most beautiful around the Mediterranean. The sea, the people, and the sun that sets in the water is beyond breathtaking.

AM: While Egypt is known as the Hollywood of the Middle East, in your opinion, what does it take for an Egyptian talent to cross the nation’s boundaries?
It’s not easy at all, one should speak a couple of foreign languages. It depends on the sector of course. For opera, it helps when you study abroad in Europe. Like I studied a Bachelor and Master’s in opera singing, performance and musical theater at a school in Berlin. The doorway to a global career is going to a country and integrating in its community to learn the know-how from the local artists. If people want to learn belly dancing, they would come to Egypt, and since opera singing is a western art, one should go there.

AM: You have sung in front of head of states and thousands of spectators, which audience challenges you the most?
The most challenging is when I sing for an audience who knows the repertoire I am performing. Like when I am at the Palais Garnier in Paris where the spectators are opera-enthusiasts and are knowledgeable about the field and have probably watched several artists before. It’s more difficult from an audience who isn’t specialized in opera but still appreciates it. Same applies to when I sing Dalida in front of a French crowd for example.  

Farrah El Dibany x Arabian Moda

AM: From Egypt to Paris and to the rest of the world best represents your professional route. How has France supported your career?
It played a very important role. I came to France to be part of the Académie de l'Opéra National de Paris young artists program, and through my contract I got a huge opportunity in the opera world and exposure in a community that is very sophisticated. I got to see and perform alongside other famous singers which was an important milestone. At the Paris Opera house, you get to be with the best of the best in the world and this has served me tremendously. It allowed me to meet people who have opened doors and opportunities. Followed by the fact that French people love Egyptian culture and history and hence embraced me and included me on the scene. The Francophonie is also an important factor as I speak French.

AM: You do spend several months of the year in Paris. What are your Paris rituals?
My Paris rituals include having long walks in the city from east to west, in the Marais, from Bastille, to Opera Garnier and the Champs-Élysées for example. I do that a lot and I miss it when I am in other cities. You are walking in an open museum and historical streets; you feel like you are travelling through a different era. I love Parisian terrace cafes in general and restaurants like Gigi, Giraffe and Bambino. The new Hotel Cheval Blanc and its restaurant Le Tout-Paris with views over Paris is splendid. I also love the terrace of Hotel Brach where we shot Arabian Moda’s cover.

AM: In our shoot, you wore the very same dress of the president’s re-election event. Please give us some behind the scenes exclusives about the preparation of this iconic event
This event was very last minute. I was not even in Paris, I was in Geneva, and a day before, someone called me from the presidential campaign asking if I was available and willing to sing La Marseillaise National anthem at the re-election without knowing if it was actually going to take place. So, they talked to the president and his wife and confirmed me a few hours later. I had to practice and learn the song as I have only sung it once in my career. I was very stressed and didn’t want to make any errors. The conditions were very challenging, I was singing without any music, just A capella which isn’t easy in such a crowded outdoor situation. I took the train, dropped my bags at the hotel, and went to rehearsals. Went back home and got the infamous dress that I chose because of its color. I thought it would suit the flag, and it was subtle, not too much, nor too little. As I was getting ready in a tent next to the Champ de Mars, I had a hairdresser and did my own makeup, and everyone was so tense because no one knew the results as we watched the television. Around 6 p.m. we got some information that the president will probably be re-elected, but we were still unsure, knowing that if he hadn’t won, I wouldn’t be singing on stage. The results were out and everyone was happy. There was a positive energy in the environment and the ceremony was about to start.

Farrah El Dibany x Arabian Moda

AM: And speaking of that red dress, you seem to have a close affinity with the Lebanese house of Gemy Maalouf. How did it all start?
It started when I had a concert for President Emmanuel Macron, a private event at l’Institut du monde arabe, and I was only told a day ahead. So I needed a dress urgently and I saw the dresses by Gemy. I love the different styles, cuts and fabrics she has in her designs and surprisingly all of them fit me. Every dress fits my figure and style. It’s modern and European, not a typical Oriental design, which is similar to my personal style. I like simple, high quality and good finishing. I like to feel that the dress is wearing me rather than me wearing it. I like a special detail without being too much.

AM: A strong and independent Arab lady who seems unstoppable. What is a word of advice you would give to all Arab women out there?
Be yourself, don’t imitate or compare yourself. Find what makes you unique and not what you see in others. One should find their passion and just do it without hesitation.

AM: Finally, can we ever expect you to headline a musical or a film one day?
I love musicals and I also love cinema. Who knows, but if it happens, I would like to do a biography like playing the role of someone, a film that carries a message. I am also working with a French director on a fiction movie about the French-Egyptian relations.

Farrah El Dibany x Arabian Moda
“Farrah is very talented and inspiring. I really admire her inside - out adding to her voice that makes me dream every time I listen to her. She represents our persona as a brand. She is a free-spirited woman, confident, assertive, intellectual and emits power. It is always a magical moment seeing Farrah performing on stage wearing our creations,” comments Lebanese Designer Gemy Maalouf.