Tourism Minister Joseph Sarkis has told the Lebanese press that all four of Lebanon's major annual arts festivals — at Baalbek, Beiteddine, Byblos and Tyre — will go ahead this summer despite the country's political instability.
Baalbek is the only festival so far to announce its dates (July 22 to August 25), but full programs for the other festivals will be announced in the coming weeks.
Besides Muti and the orchestra from Florence, the only other confirmed act at Baalbek is the Caracalla dance troupe, which will perform its Villager's Opera. The piece, according to the Star, had been slated to be the closing act for last year's Baalbek Festival. All festivals were cancelled, however, after Israel launched a military offensive following the capture of two of its soldiers by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
According to Agence France-Presse, Muti will also play the piano at a concert during the Beiteddine Festival, which is near Beirut.
"We invite foreigners and Arabs to come in large numbers to spend the summer in Lebanon and attend the varied programs of the internationally renowned festivals," Sarkis said at a press conference in the resort town of Beit Meri, east of Beirut. "We want to change the image of Lebanon with an international media campaign in order to attract tourists again."
Nora Jumblatt, president of the festival held in the 19th-century Beiteddine Palace, told AFP, "Some of the (foreign) artists and bands are a bit afraid, but all in all, it will be fine."
AFP quotes May Arida, president of the Baalbek International Festival, as saying she did not expect "any difficulties in Baalbek," a Hezbollah stronghold, adding that local authorities (traditionally close to Hezbollah) have written to the ministries of tourism to express support for the festival.