Opera pioneer Ratiba el-Hefni dies

CAIRO: Ratiba el-Hefni, the first woman to hold the presidency of the Egyptian Opera House and one of its icons, passed away yesterday after a journey of creativity blended with academia and artistic talent.

Born in 1931, Hefni was raised in an artistic family, her father wrote over 45 books about music and instated music into the school curricula in Egypt, her German grandmother was also an opera singer.

Hefni learned to play the piano in 1936 when she was five years old; afterwards she was schooled by the late musician Mohamed el-Qasapgi. She later went to Europe to study different kinds of music and starred in Verdi’s opera Aida in Paris.

She was the president of the Arab Society for Music – affiliated with the Arab League – and was also dean of the Institute of Arabic music.

Hefni was the first to establish a children’s choir in Egypt in 1961, and also established the Om Kolthom band for Arabic music. She founded a religious singing band in the opera house, in addition to the National Band for Arab Music.

Hefni received numerous awards for her efforts and achievements in arts, such as the State Award in the Arts from the Supreme Council of Egyptian culture in 2004.

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