Daniel Barenboim
(c) Peter Adamik

This August, Daniel Barenboim reunites with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra for a seven-city tour across Europe. Starting today 9/8 in Aaarhus, the tour will pass through Copenhagen, Aldeburgh, London (BBC Proms), Salzburg, Berlin and end in Lucerne on 22/8. At the center of the concerts is David Robert Coleman’s Looking for Palestine for soprano and orchestra, a work commissioned by the ensemble, and one that speaks to its uniquely political identity.

British-German composer David Robert Coleman (*1969) used for his new work texts from the memoirs Looking for Palestine – Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family by the American-Palestinian author and actress Najla Said, the daughter of Edward Said, with whom Barenboim founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999.

The daughter of a Palestinian father and a Lebanese mother, Najla Said grew up in New York City, confused and conflicted about her cultural background and identity. The book’s PR text says: Said knew that her parents identified deeply with their homelands, but growing up in a Manhattan world that was defined largely by class and conformity, she felt unsure about who she was supposed to be, and was often in denial of the differences she sensed between her family and those around her. The fact that her father was the famous intellectual and outspoken Palestinian advocate Edward Said only made things more complicated. She may have been born a Palestinian Lebanese American, but in Said’s mind she grew up first as a WASP, having been baptized Episcopalian in Boston and attending the wealthy Upper East Side girls’ school Chapin, then as a teenage Jew, essentially denying her true roots, even to herself—until, ultimately, the psychological toll of all this self-hatred began to threaten her health.

As she grew older, making increased visits to Palestine and Beirut, Said’s worldview shifted. The attacks on the World Trade Center, and some of the ways in which Americans responded, finally made it impossible for Said to continue to pick and choose her identity, forcing her to see herself and her passions more clearly. Today, she has become an important voice for second-generation Arab Americans nationwide.

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