What is a German opera singer who is interested in Foxtrot, Swing and The Waltz, doing in the small village of Beiteddine?

For Max Raabe, the internationally renowned operatic master who founded the Palast Orchestra in 1986, there’s one central reason: the Beiteddine Festival. Celebrating its 25th installment, this year’s cultural spectacular is in full swing at its renowned venue, Beiteddine Palace, until August 6.

"Max Raabe" courtesy of Max Raabe

Stiff in his coat-tailed suit, Raabe sung his rendition of Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” with stoic calmness. Another highlight of the night, he also performed songs by German Composer Frederich Hollaenger and the all-male German close harmony ensemble, The Comedian Harmonists.

Just before his performance, Raabe sat down with NOW Extra – something the artist says he never does prior to a show – to share a few brief thoughts of his visit and experiences.

How did you end up at the Beiteddine?

Max Raabe: We got an invitation from the festival. We were, at first surprised, why they had chosen our style and music. We said yes because it was something new to see. After a while we had realized how important and great this festival is, all the wonderful artists who had already come here.

Is this your first time here?

Raabe: First time in Lebanon and the Middle East.

How do you find Lebanon so far?

Raabe: Wonderful! I am impressed how gentle people are here. To see how many roots are in this country – the architectural buildings, some are like you see in Italy, very European. That is what we had expected.

You cover German songs from the 1920s and 1930s, what do you expect to be the response from the Lebanese audience?

Raabe: I think music is a very international thing, where different musicians present it well. It works. It will work tonight, and I have a good feeling about it.

Will you perform songs from the Comedian Harmonists?

Raabe: Some of the songs were performed by different artists in that time. We will sing a few of their songs.

Have you met with other artists?

"Max Raabe" courtesy of Max Raabe

Raabe: Unfortunately, not. We had arrived directly from Berlin yesterday. We leave tomorrow morning to go to our studio sessions. We are recording songs now. This festival is a nice interruption from our work.

When you are touring, is it a matter of bringing music to the people or bringing something from the places you visit, as material to incorporate into your own?

Raabe: For example, this country is rich in music. They don’t need us. But maybe if they listen to a different style, it may be interesting for them. But we don’t have a message. We just want to bring our style of music. It is a wonderful gift to see countries like Lebanon and to have a wonderful place to perform.

Why did you choose the 1920s and 30s, as inspiration for your work?

Raabe: No idea. Maybe, the music has found my style – ironic, humorous and elegant. I am familiar with the music going on today. But I think someone has to do what we are doing. It is important to know the original arrangements of that time. You don’t find them a lot on radio or TV shows. So, we do our concerts and tours around in places like the United States, China and Japan.

Link to article on Now Lebanon’s website