Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera

Sawsan AlBahiti, the first Saudi opera singer, will perform the role of the bridesmaid in Zarqa Al-Yamama. (Supplied)
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Updated 17 April 2024
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Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera

  • ‘Zarqa Al-Yamama’ aims to bring Saudi heritage to life and lead the way into a new cultural era in the Kingdom
  • Saudi singers Sawsan Al-Bahiti, Khayran Al-Zahrani and Reemaz Oqbi take on 3 key roles in the opera

RIYADH: With just a week to go, the stage is set for the eagerly anticipated first performance of “Zarqa Al-Yamama,” which organizers describe as the first grand Saudi opera in Arabic, at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh on April 25.

The libretto will be sung in Arabic, which is rare in opera as the vast majority of works are performed in European languages. As such, the Kingdom’s Theater and Performing Arts Commission said the event, which takes place under the patronage of Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, marks a turning point in an increasingly vibrant Saudi cultural scene, given the high artistic value of opera and the interest of connoisseurs and audiences around the world in the art form.

“Zarqa Al-Yamama” is based on well-known sung poems and music inspired by the operatic tradition, together with elements of Saudi music. It tells the story of the legendary figure Zarqa Al-Yamama, who lived in the Al-Yamama region of Najd during the pre-Islamic era and is caught up in a dispute between her tribe and another that ends in tragedy.

The producers describe the opera as a poignant tragedy with breathtaking suspense, brought to life in a state-of-the-art theatrical production filled with sweeping orchestral movements and mesmerizing choral performances that deliver a unique cultural experience. 




Sawsan AlBahiti. (Supplied)

Sultan Al-Bazie, the CEO of the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, said the opera embodies well-established elements of Saudi heritage and presents a well-known story within a contemporary framework that reflects modern artistic trends and audience expectations.

It is a collaborative project featuring Saudi and international artists. Saudi poet Saleh Zamanan, who has received several local and international awards for his poetry and plays, wrote the words, inspired by the historical story of Zarqa and adding his own literary stamp.

Saudi artists Sawsan Al-Bahiti, Khayran Al-Zahrani and Reemaz Oqbi take on three key roles in the opera, which is a sign of the progress in the development of musical entertainment in the Kingdom.

“I will be performing the role of the bridesmaid, which is part of a major scene in the opera where the story takes a major turn to more thrilling events,” Al-Bahiti told Arab News.

Considered the first Saudi opera singer, she has been leading the way in the development of the Saudi opera scene and “Zarqa Al-Yamama” provides the latest showcase for her incredible vocal talent. She said the production is contemporary and innovative, and demonstrates a rich complexity that will captivate the audience.

“From the day I started training as an opera singer in 2008, I dreamed of an original Saudi opera production sung in Arabic,” said Al-Bahiti. “This day has finally come, and arrived sooner than I expected, which makes me even happier.”

Amid the rapid development and evolution of all forms of entertainment in Saudi Arabia in recent years, “Zarqa Al-Yamama” represents a significant step forward for opera in the Kingdom, and Al-Bahiti serves as a shining example of the growing opportunities as the art form continues to evolve and grow.

“Zarqa Al-Yamama” will run from April 25 until May 4, with 10 performances scheduled.


Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan

Updated 23 May 2024
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Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan

  • Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its innovation, says CEO

RIYADH: One of the world’s biggest shipbuilders will work in partnership with Saudi Arabia to strengthen the Kingdom’s maritime sector, with a focus on sustainability and the development of “green shipping.”

Fincantieri, an Italian company and Europe’s largest shipbuilding group, highlighted its commitment to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda at a conference under the theme “Where Vision Meets Maritime Excellence” held in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Saudi decisionmakers from related sectors in Riyadh joined Italian officials in a range of sessions at the forum.

During the event, Fincantieri CEO Pierroberto Folgiero outlined the shipbuilder’s plans to collaborate with Saudi companies in line with Vision 2030.

“Our commitment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is steadfast,” he said.

Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its innovation, and has a leading role in the naval, cruise, and oil and gas sectors, Folgiero said.

The CEO highlighted the importance of developing green ships, designed to minimize the environmental impact of maritime operations, as part of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2060.

Digitizing shipyard operations through innovations such as AI also aligns with the goals of Vision 2030, Folgiero said.

“Today, the shipping industry and the maritime industry, in general, is coping with environmental regulation. For us, it is not only a source of compliance, but also a source of distinctiveness. So, we believe that in the maritime sector, in the shipbuilding sector, mastering energy transition and new technologies will be a source of competitiveness and distinctiveness,” he said.

“That is why we are engaged in all the solutions (regarding) energy transition at sea. We are a new engine. We are in biofuels. We are in methanol. We are in LNG. We are in ammonia. We are in hydrogen. We are everywhere there is innovation at sea.”

Maria Tripodi, undersecretary of state for foreign affairs at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, discussed the significance of keeping operations and businesses sustainable.

Fincantieri’s ships are built to produce zero carbon emissions, which helps to protect the environment and marine ecosystem, she said.

Khalil Ibrahim bin Salamah, deputy minister for industry affairs at the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, said: “Localization for us is a key factor. Key components are crucial, but the whole supply chain is equally important.”


Saudi Arabia’s envoy opens ‘Al-Mangour: Loved and Beloved’ exhibition in US

Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s US ambassador, opened the exhibition “Al-Mangour: Loved and Beloved” in Washington.
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s envoy opens ‘Al-Mangour: Loved and Beloved’ exhibition in US

  • The work by Saudi Arabia artist Ahmad Angawi was presented by the Saudi Embassy and the International Finance Corporation
  • Al-Mangour is a traditional Hijazi craft that consists of wooden latticework forming a mesh-like screen

RIYADH: Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s US ambassador, opened the exhibition “Al-Mangour: Loved and Beloved” in Washington on Wednesday.

The work by Saudi Arabia artist Ahmad Angawi was presented by the Saudi Embassy and the International Finance Corporation.

The exhibition, held at the IFC’s headquarters, showcases the beauty of Al-Mangour, the traditional Hijazi craft that consists of wooden latticework forming a mesh-like screen.

Al-Mangour is a traditional Hijazi craft that consists of wooden latticework forming a mesh-like screen. (@rbalsaud)

The craft reflects the spiritual relationship between humans through a story of two halves that form one unit — the “loved and beloved.”

The exhibition included musical performances and traditional cuisine.

In her speech, Princess Reema stressed the importance of traditional arts in strengthening cultural identity and solidifying national heritage, and building bridges with other nations.

She lauded Angawi for preserving and developing the traditions of the Hijaz region.

Among those in attendance were the IFC’s Director Makhtar Diop, officials, diplomats and artists.


Saudi ambassador presents credentials to emperor of Japan

Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi ambassador presents credentials to emperor of Japan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Japan, Ghazi Faisal Binzagr, on Thursday presented his diplomatic credentials to Emperor Naruhito during a reception at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The envoy, who took up his post in January, conveyed to the emperor the greetings and appreciation of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and their best wishes to the government of Japan and its people for their continued progress and prosperity, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.


MDLBEAST building a creative tribe through music, says chief creative officer

Updated 23 May 2024
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MDLBEAST building a creative tribe through music, says chief creative officer

  • Ahmad AlAmmary talks about MDLBEAST vision, his own musical background for 6th season of ‘The Mayman Show’

Riyadh: MDLBEAST is building a tribe for the region’s music lovers through its initiatives such as the Soundstorm festival, the platform’s Chief Creative Officer Ahmad AlAmmary, also known as DJ Baloo, said. The Saudi veteran DJ and producer with over 20 years of experience under his belt sat down with Arab News’ “The Mayman Show” for the launch of its sixth season, talking about MDLBEAST’s ambitions and his own background.

His role taps into his ability to find solutions on many levels, he shared.

 

 

“It’s been my role since the onset of this whole project. My background sits between design thinking, brand development, and brand strategy, and music,” the CCO said, adding that the role feels like a perfect fit for him.

“Creatively, you know, every day is its own day. There’s no system for creativity. Its context is whatever comes your way, whatever problem you’re solving — that’s where your creativity sits,” he said.

AlAmmary said it was MDLBEAST’s goal to become involved in all facets of the creative music industry since its launch in 2019.

 

 

“From the onset, the big splash was Soundstorm, but we had every intention of launching our record labels, our music conferences, and XP Music Future,” he said.

The platform launched around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which provided an opportunity for it to focus on entertaining.

“So, whether or not you (could) go to an event, we were still around there to … provide the music and to provide the entertainment,” AlAmmary said.

After pandemic restrictions eased, it allowed him and the team to stay on the path they paved. MDLBEAST started with flagship live events and some record labels.

 

 

“We had … launched MDLBEAST Records, Qabo, Wattar, Maestro-Lab and, most recently, Mahoul Records. Each of these labels, for example, serves … a niche. Above and beyond, our conference is a really unique experience that gathers people from around the region. We have a day and night experience. During the day, it’s all about learning and networking, connecting, and collaborating. And at night, that turns into a regional music showcase,” AlAmmary said.

MDLBEAST highlights up-and-coming brands that are leading the underground scene of Saudi music across a variety of genres, the CCO said.

“It’s just been, you know, a lot of fun … but also a lot of … work. We’re turning around projects left and right,” he said, adding that the platform is now “diving into venues” with the launch of Beast House, for example, “Riyadh’s first music and creative members club,” according to the MDLBEAST website.

 

 

“We developed these smaller pop-up events, with more intimate settings,” AlAmmary said, explaining that the events take place in spaces that have been abandoned, giving MDLBEAST space to flex its creative muscles.

“We can take over and create an experience that is very unique,” he said. “We saw that with Tahlia in Jeddah and Irqah in Riyadh, the abandoned hospital … We’re looking at all of these different spaces and projects as … fun experiences that we can create for our people and platforms for musicians to shine.”

Speaking about his own background, AlAmmary says he owes his creative attributes to his very musical family.

 

 

“My eldest brother, Khalid, actually, he was kind of like the cultural center of our family. Everything from film to music, design, art, you know, we always had a deep interest in the arts because of his influence. Especially with me and house music — that’s where I learned it. I learned it from Khalid,” he said.

The DJ and producer developed an interest in music at an early age.

“By the time I was 17, I already had a collection of music,” he said. “Years later, you know, I started to get things like a residency in Bahrain … I would just travel to Beirut and the gigs would appear.”

 


3rd European Film Festival set to launch in Saudi

Updated 23 May 2024
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3rd European Film Festival set to launch in Saudi

  • VOX Cinemas will host 21 European films over the one-week event
  • The line-up features movies that have won awards including Oscars and the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival

RIYADH: The third European Film Festival begins next week, taking place in both Riyadh and Jeddah for the first time.
The event, which will run from May 29 to June 6, is being launched by the European Union Delegation to the Kingdom in conjunction with the embassies of EU member states and Arabia Pictures.
It will be hosted at VOX Cinemas Century Corner in Riyadh and the newly opened VOX Cinemas Jeddah Park in Jeddah.
This year the festival is bigger than ever, with 21 European films from countries including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
The line-up features movies that have won awards including Oscars and the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival.
EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Christophe Farnaud said: “I am glad that the European Film Festival has become a landmark event on the Kingdom’s cultural calendar. The festival has been expanding year by year and this time around we are not only showcasing more movies, but also bringing the festival to Jeddah. I hope that this will allow even more Saudi film enthusiasts to attend the festival’s many film screenings and side events.”
Ahmed Teama, CEO of Arabia Pictures, expressed his pleasure at extending the collaboration with the EU Delegation to Saudi Arabia for a third consecutive year.
He lauded the festival as one of the most significant cinematic events in the Kingdom, highlighting its unique appeal to a devoted audience of international cinema enthusiasts.
Aimed at facilitating cultural exchange and promoting European cinema, the festival will also foster contacts between European and Saudi filmmakers.
Among the guests will be Oscar-winning Austrian film director Stefan Ruzowitzky, who will give a special masterclass.
Also attending will be director Kyriakos Tofaridis and screenwriter/director Mijke de Jong as well as Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney, from Cyprus, the Netherlands and Ireland respectively, who will meet the audiences and run an open conversation with filmmakers and film enthusiasts.
All side-events are free of charge and will take place at VOX Cinemas Century Corner in Riyadh.
Cinema enthusiast Meshal Al-Mutairi told Arab News: “I have seen movies during previous EU film fests and like their movie selection.”
For more information about the festival program or to buy tickets, visit https://arabiapictures.sa/EuroFest or https://ksa.voxcinemas.com