Austin Violinist Omar Lopez to Join Emmy Award-Winning Guitarist and Composer BENISE for Three-Week Engagement in Lebanon

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Austin Texas violinist joins flamenco guitarist Benise at Casino du Liban in Lebanon. The renknowned, luxurious casino will feature the emmy-award winning show "Nights of Fire" with a cast of 40 choreographed dancers and musicians.

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Austin-based violinist, singer, and composer Omar Lopez is known to his hometown community for his electrifying signature style which combines his classical training with Latin and gypsy-jazz, rock, pop, gospel, and R&B influences. He has two solo albums of original music to his credit - "Forever Red" (released in 2005) and "Experience" (2007).

Omar has opened for Latin superstar Jose Feliciano, rock icon Pat Benatar and Jennifer Holliday ("Dreamgirls"). Voted one of Austin's Top Ten String Players for seven consecutive years in a row, Omar got his start playing at street-corner coffee shops, Latin-themed nightclubs, and at churches and high school auditoriums with his own live band and with Austin Latin-jazz sensation THE BREW. He has also performed benefits for local HIV and AIDS wellness organizations such as The Wright House Wellness Center and the David Powell Clinic.

However, on Monday, December 14th, 2009, Omar will finally take his talent and over two decades of experience to a global stage as he departs for Lebanon to join world-renowned nouveau-flamenco guitarist and composer BENISE (pronounced "buh-NESS-say") for a three-week engagement at the Casino du Liban in Maameltein, Jounieh. The Los Angeles-based entertainer's Emmy-Award winning production "NIGHTS OF FIRE!" combines Benise's romantic, Spanish-style nylon-stringed guitar with a 40-person cast of musicians and dancers and has been described as a "Latin Riverdance meets Cirque du Soleil".

Roni Benise's first passion was to become a rock and roll superstar along with the greats such as Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, but fell in love with Spanish guitar music upon moving to Southern California from Nebraska. After retiring his electric guitar in favor of a nylon-stringed guitar, he began performing with friends on street corners for locals and tourists and selling CDs to support himself and his band, much like what Omar had done in recent years.

Offers came in from record companies, but Benise turned them down, believing he would have to compromise his music or downsize his show, which eventually blossomed into a PBS special after years of hard work and dedication to the originality of his craft. The mixture of material in “Nights of Fire!” includes Brazilian samba, Cuban salsa, Spanish flamenco, Argentine tango, even African tribal chants and drums. The production’s incredible costumes were acknowledged with an Emmy Award.

Benise says he’s most comfortable when presenting “a fusion of all styles. I appreciate music from all over the world and I believe that feeling has allowed me to embrace them all, to incorporate them into the songs that I write, the music we sing, the shows we perform. When people ask what it is, I tell them it’s a combination of blues, jazz, salsa, rock and more, but in a hipper style.”

For Omar, this opportunity comes as an honor, since this three week tour will feature him in place of his mentor and inspiration - violinist Karen Briggs, more widely known as "the Lady in Red" who toured with international contemporary instrumental keyboardist and composer YANNI for thirteen years before joining Benise's organization in 2005. "Karen is the reason I didn't quit playing in high school," Omar says. "I saw her in (Yanni's) 'Live at the Acropolis' on PBS in 1994 and said 'This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.'"

With a chance to share the stage of Lebanon's most famous and elegant casino with a world-class performer like Benise, Omar Lopez may finally get his wish.

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