‘The Phantom of the Opera’ thrills audiences in Riyadh

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The world-famous musical 'The Phantom of the Opera,' which is inspired by the classic book by Gaston Leroux, will bring melody, love, and mystery to the stage at The Arena Riyadh this winter. (AN photo by Abdulrhman bin Shalhoub)
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The world-famous musical 'The Phantom of the Opera,' which is inspired by the classic book by Gaston Leroux, will bring melody, love, and mystery to the stage at The Arena Riyadh this winter. (AN photo by Abdulrhman bin Shalhoub)
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The world-famous musical 'The Phantom of the Opera,' which is inspired by the classic book by Gaston Leroux, will bring melody, love, and mystery to the stage at The Arena Riyadh this winter. (AN photo by Abdulrhman bin Shalhoub)
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The world-famous musical 'The Phantom of the Opera,' which is inspired by the classic book by Gaston Leroux, will bring melody, love, and mystery to the stage at The Arena Riyadh this winter. (AN photo by Abdulrhman bin Shalhoub)
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The world-famous musical 'The Phantom of the Opera,' which is inspired by the classic book by Gaston Leroux, will bring melody, love, and mystery to the stage at The Arena Riyadh this winter. (AN photo by Abdulrhman bin Shalhoub)
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The world-famous musical 'The Phantom of the Opera,' which is inspired by the classic book by Gaston Leroux, will bring melody, love, and mystery to the stage at The Arena Riyadh this winter. (AN photo by Abdulrhman bin Shalhoub)
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Updated 24 October 2023
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‘The Phantom of the Opera’ thrills audiences in Riyadh

  • Arriving in the Saudi capital from London’s West End, award-winning production promises magical experience

RIYADH: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s critically acclaimed musical “The Phantom of the Opera,” is now running at The Arena Riyadh until Dec. 5.

Presented by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, in collaboration with Broadway Entertainment Group and by arrangement with the Really Useful Group, the show made its debut on Oct. 14 and will become the longest-running theatrical show to be staged in the Saudi capital.

“The Phantom of the Opera” is based on Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel of the same name. The musical is set in 1830s Paris, follows the Phantom — a musical genius — as he roams the shadows of the Paris Opera House. There, he encounters Christine, an enchanting soprano, drawing her into his world and nurturing her talents. Unbeknownst to Christine, the Phantom has begun to fall in love with her, but she already harbors feelings for the young nobleman Raoul, patron of the opera. What unfolds is a whirlwind of intense emotions that will keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

The iconic musical has earned more than 70 international theater awards, including seven Tony Awards in New York for its record-breaking Broadway run and four Olivier Awards in London’s West End.

 

“The Phantom of the Opera” is widely regarded as one of the greatest musicals of all time. The romantic score includes the much-loved songs “Think of Me,” “All I Ask of You,” “The Music of the Night,” and the iconic title song.

Lebanese-British actor Nadim Naaman plays the lead role in the production — the first time an actor of Middle Eastern origin has played the iconic part of the Phantom.

“I’m very happy to be here for the first time. I’ve been traveling around the Middle East my whole life. I’m Lebanese, but raised in London, so I have family in Beirut, in Dubai. I have friends in Doha,” Naaman told Arab News. “I’ve been very fortunate to work in this region for the last five or six years. But Saudi Arabia is the place where it’s happening now, you know? And, watching from London, the development of all the arts, the sport, the tourism, this 2030 Vision that’s happening here is very exciting. And it feels like the right time to bring a show like this here. The people of Riyadh deserve it.”

Naaman has been heavily involved in the production for the past 13 years, portraying the character of Raoul. He believes that the time is finally right for him to take on the role of the Phantom.

“I played the role of Raoul many times, and it has always been my dream to play the Phantom,” he said. “I just had to wait (to get to) the right age and the right point in my career. It’s the biggest privilege, because this is the most iconic role in musical theater for a man. The music is incredible.

“As a Middle Eastern performer, to be doing this for the first time in the Middle East is honestly a dream come true,” he continued. “I could never have imagined this. It’s a very special thing.”

The talented Australian soprano Georgia Wilkinson returns to her role as Christine Daae — one she has played on many occasions, including the show’s tour of Greece.

“I’ve wanted to come to Saudi for so many years and, finally, I get to be here — and for work,” she said. “We’ve been so busy rehearsing that I haven’t gotten to see much of it yet, but once we’re into performances, there’s quite a few places that we want to go, like the Edge of the World, Diriyah, Kingdom Tower … we’ve got a whole list that we’re going to work our way through.”

During her time at Melbourne University, Wilkinson’s exceptional abilities earned her the distinction of becoming the youngest-ever Opera Scholar of the Year and a recipient of the Robert Salzer Voice Award.

Her favorite song from the show, she told Arab News, is the title track. “I think it’s the first part of the soundtrack that I heard when I was a child and I just grasped onto it. It was like an earworm; it was constantly in my head, and I would sing along. It’s so emotive, and the vocal range is amazing. I could sing it 10 times a night. I just love it,” she explained.

The show’s Riyadh run is part of the RCRC’s efforts to offer a wide range of entertainment choices, aligning with the goals of Vision 2030’s Quality of Life Program.

Jasper Hope, an adviser to the Riyadh commission, said that arranging the performances in Riyadh took more than two years.

“That’s because this is the world’s most popular musical,” he explained. “Everybody in the world wants to see a production of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ in their city. (So) it’s taken us a little while. We had to get a venue that was suitable, we had to get a production and a company, we had to make the arrangements. These things can take time.

“This isn’t the first show that we’ve done here in Riyadh. We’ve been working for the last four or five months to bring shows pretty much every month, and we hope to continue that in the years to come,” he added.

There will be a total of 59 performances of the show in Riyadh, featuring a cast and crew numbering over 100, and more than 230 intricately designed costumes.

Andrew Riley, the set and costume designer, told Arab News: “I think designing a show anywhere has its challenges, to be honest, no matter where you are. It’s such a technically complicated and complex show. There’s a lot of moving scenery, automation, flying, and costume changes. There are over 150 costumes in the show, and there are a lot of quick changes, so it’s very technical,” he said.

While paying homage to the timeless legacy of “The Phantom of the Opera,” the Riyadh performance promises to deliver a “fresh and mesmerizing experience that will captivate both devoted fans and newcomers to the story.”

Tickets are available at phantom.platinumlist.net and ticketingboxoffice.com.


Saudi, Japanese culture ministers discuss cooperation

Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi, Japanese culture ministers discuss cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Farhan met in Tokyo on Tuesday his Japanese counterpart Masahito Moriyama.

The pair discussed enhancing cultural cooperation between the two countries within the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030.

Prince Badr said the Kingdom’s participation in Expo 2025 Osaka will offer opportunities to learn about the Saudi culture, history, and future vision.

Moriyama thanked Prince Badr for the Saudi ministry’s efforts in opening new horizons to enhance cultural exchange between the two countries.


Saudi deputy foreign minister offers condolences to Iran over death of president

Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi deputy foreign minister offers condolences to Iran over death of president

  • Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian died on Sunday when their helicopter crashed in dense fog

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Waleed Elkhereiji, on Tuesday offered condolences and sympathy to Iran following the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash.

Elkhereiji delivered the message, on behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, to the Iranian ambassador to the Kingdom, Alireza Enayatiat, at the nation’s embassy in Riyadh, the Saudi foreign ministry said. He was accompanied by Abdulmajeed Al-Samari, the deputy minister for protocol affairs, who similarly expressed his condolences.

The Iranian president, foreign minister and six other people were killed on Sunday when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed amid dense fog in mountainous terrain near the border with Azerbaijan.


Saudi Arabia, Japan leaders exchange views in video summit meeting

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia, Japan leaders exchange views in video summit meeting

  • The crown prince expressed his desire to visit Japan as soon as possible to further strengthen ties with Japan
  • Kishida expressed his wishes for King Salman’s early recovery

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the prime minister of Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday.
Kishida offered his best wishes for King Salman’s health, a gesture that was appreciated by the crown prince.
The crown prince expressed his desire to visit Japan as soon as possible to further strengthen ties with Japan. Kishida expressed his wishes for King Salman’s early recovery and said that he was also looking forward to strengthening the strategic partnership between Japan and Saudi Arabia, according to the foreign ministry in Tokyo.
As the two countries approach the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, the Japanese prime minister expressed his desire to work even more closely with Saudi Arabia. He emphasized the shared goal of realizing peace and stability in the Middle East, a sentiment that was echoed by the crown prince. The leaders agreed to establish a “strategic partnership council” chaired by them to further strengthen bilateral relations.
Kishida expressed gratitude for Saudi Arabia’s stable supply of crude oil to Japan over the years. He also expressed his anticipation for Saudi Arabia to continue playing a leading role in stabilizing the global oil market, including through production increases, a sentiment that was appreciated by the crown prince.
Kishida added that he would like to cooperate in establishing a global supply chain for clean energy, such as hydrogen and ammonia, and promote cooperation in the field of mineral resources while using Japanese technology under the “lighthouse initiative” agreed between the two countries in July last year.
The crown prince said that Saudi Arabia would like to cooperate with Japan in various areas, including clean energy, and the Kingdom remained committed to providing a stable supply of crude oil to Japan.
Kishida expressed interest in creating business opportunities in Saudi Arabia, and making direct investments in Japan in a wide range of fields, including construction, power transmission, hydrogen, digital fields, information and communications technology, space, health, medicine, food and agriculture.
He also said that he would like to work together to achieve an early realization of the Japan-GCC free trade agreement. This agreement, once implemented, will significantly boost trade and investment between Japan and the GCC countries, creating new business opportunities and fostering economic growth. Negotiations are scheduled to resume soon.
The crown prince said that he welcomed the resumption of negotiations for the Japan-GCC free trade agreement and cooperation with Japan in fields beyond energy.
On peace and security, Kishida explained Japan’s diplomatic efforts and contributions in Gaza, including humanitarian aid and diplomatic initiatives. The crown prince said that he envisioned continued cooperation with Japan on diplomatic efforts to realize peace and stability, appreciating Japan’s active role in the region.
Kishida said that he would be pleased to hand over the symbolic “torch” of the expo to Saudi Arabia following Expo 2025 in Osaka-Kansai. This act symbolizes the continuation of the spirit of international cooperation and cultural exchange. He added that he would like to encourage cultural exchanges in entertainment, tourism, academia and football.
The crown prince said that Japan was an outstanding country in terms of culture and that he sought to strengthen cooperation with Japan in this area.
Read More: Saudi, Japan discuss ties at Vision 2030 business forum in Tokyo  


Saudi ministry says no truth in circulated information about livestock withdrawal periods and disease in humans

Ministry has emphasized that the withdrawal period for veterinary drugs varies depending on the active ingredient and the method
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi ministry says no truth in circulated information about livestock withdrawal periods and disease in humans

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has said that information in the media on the subject of consumption of meat during the withdrawal period and its possible contribution to liver and kidney diseases in humans — which may include cancerous tumors — is inaccurate.

The ministry has emphasized that the withdrawal period for veterinary drugs varies depending on the active ingredient and the method of administering the dose, whether by injection or topical use. 

The ministry detailed that the scientific analysis in classifying drugs is based on infection-control vaccines which have a globally specified withdrawal period; viral diseases’ antibiotics, which have a precise withdrawal period; and external inflammatory diseases’ mastitis-abscess, which are subject to a temporary withdrawal period.

The ministry and the National Center for the Prevention and Control of Plants and Animal Diseases oversee slaughterhouses across the Kingdom to ensure that animals have not been injected with any veterinary products, by inspecting the animals post-slaughter.

This inspection covers more than 380 slaughterhouses across the Kingdom, supervised by more than 1,050 veterinarians who carefully examine over 22,000 carcasses daily to ensure they are safe and free of disease, injuries, or traces of injections, and confirm their suitability for human consumption.

The ministry has urged citizens and residents to have their animals slaughtered in official slaughterhouses that are subject to the supervision of the ministry and WEQAA.

The ministry has further indicated that, in cooperation with WEQAA, it monitors the use of veterinary products in animal health fields and conducts regulatory inspections at outlets selling veterinary products to ensure establishments abide by the necessary standards and requirements and clarify withdrawal periods to consumers.

Regulatory authorities in the Kingdom also play a meticulous role in approving veterinary drugs, with very high standards.

The ministry carries out field inspections of veterinary pharmacies, following specific requirements, to ensure proper drug storage conditions, expiration dates, and the extent of pharmacies’ commitment to precise prescription of medicines, in addition to providing accurate details to the consumer, including the withdrawal period, dosage, amount of time necessary for withdrawal, and method of administration, to raise awareness among breeders.


New world order must combat money laundering, says French senator Nathalie Goulet

Nathalie Goulet, French senator.
Updated 22 May 2024
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New world order must combat money laundering, says French senator Nathalie Goulet

  • French politician stressed the need for sanctions, regulations to address financial crimes

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plays an important role in the fight against money laundering, French politician Nathalie Goulet said during a forum this week in Riyadh on global uncertainties and their impact on the Middle East region.

Fighting money laundering would create a much more favorable business climate, Goulet said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

The forum, held under the patronage of the King Faisal Islamic Studies and Research Center and in collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilizations  and the Nizami Ganjavi International Center, covered key themes including the new world order, which will have to face up to several challenges that call for restrictive, even draconian, measures to weaken the action of parallel economies undermining development and peace processes around the world.  

The forum held in Riyadh covered key themes including climate change and its impact on the economies of the Middle East. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Goulet, a senator for Orne since 2007 and a member of the Union of Democrats and Independents, said that money laundering was a global issue that impacted the stability of countries.

She said that money laundering represented 3 percent of gross world product, which amounted to more than $2,000 billion. “Not all money laundering is the financing of terrorism, but the financing of terrorism involves money laundering,” she told Arab News.

The issues of sustainable development, human rights and economic development are linked to the “parallel economy with money laundering, drug trafficking, human trafficking, plant trafficking, animal trafficking and, of course, corruption,” she said.

A few years ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a campaign called ‘No Money for Terror.’ It was a first step, a very important first step, and one that was widely followed.

Nathalie Goulet, French senator

Stressing the need for regulations and frameworks to address the problem of financial crimes, Goulet said that migrant smuggling, which not only involved human beings but organ trafficking and drug smuggling, “brings in as much money as Finland’s national product.

“You have to put figures on it,” she added. “When you have figures, things take on a different consistency … So, it’s an absolutely necessary policy.

“Migrant smuggling alone is worth $7 billion. And you can see that the issue of migrant smuggling is disrupting our societies in Europe, in Italy, in France … (it) is driving up the extreme right.”

The fight against money laundering involved the intervention of a large number of international organizations, but it must comply with strict rules and the effective involvement of the legislative powers of governments and international organizations.

Speaking about efforts to combat corruption and money laundering, Goulet said: “Saudi Arabia has just taken a huge step forward. A few years ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a campaign called ‘No Money for Terror.’ It was a first step, a very important first step, and one that was widely followed.”

Recently, Saudi Arabia entered a much more practical phase in the fight against corruption and money laundering. The Kingdom now fulfils almost all the obligations of international organizations, and the Financial Action Task Force and Egmont Group, which met a few days ago in Saudi Arabia.

Elaborating on practical measures that can be taken by countries and organizations, Goulet said that it was “important to hit traffickers in the wallet” through sanctions.

“So, we have all these sanctions, which are individual sanctions, we have collective sanctions, we obviously have all the United Nations sanctions on these issues, and then we have nations like France, which is now applying much tougher legislation on ill-gotten gains.”

Goulet added that it was important to “weigh up a number of criteria. For example, can we be a magnet, a hub for cryptocurrencies, but without trying to regulate them? Can we be a hub for ill-gotten gains from the misappropriation of resources in Africa and at the same time meet international criteria? Can we accept dirty money from Russia and at the same time fight for the liberation of Ukraine? And all this is ‘realpolitik.’”

The FATF’s grey list contains jurisdictions that have been placed under increased monitoring due to a country’s strategic deficiencies, which can significantly affect its business climate. The UAE, Goulet explained as an example, was recently taken off the list “because it has signed a number of conventions but remains on the European Parliament’s grey list of countries.”

If a country is on the list, which indicates that it does not comply with all the rules on money laundering, companies that have headquarters in that jurisdiction are more closely monitored and controlled and this significantly impacts the climate for doing business in.

The Kingdom became the first Arab nation to gain full membership of the FATF in 2019, in line with its efforts and financial and economic programs to achieve Vision 2030, which contributes to supporting the development of the national economy and enhancing the efficiency of the financial sector, one of the important objectives of the Financial Sector Development Program under the leadership of the Ministry of Finance.