A romance for the ages thrills opera lovers in Riyadh

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The Opera Lebanon production of ‘Antar and Abla’ thrilled music lovers on Friday and Saturday at the Princess Noura University in Riyadh.
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The Opera Lebanon orchestra in full flow at the Princess Noura University in Riyadh. (AN Photo)
Updated 25 February 2018
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A romance for the ages thrills opera lovers in Riyadh

RIYADH: Opera came to Saudi Arabia at the weekend with performances of a classic Arabian love story in front of an enraptured audience in Riyadh.
The Opera Lebanon production of “Antar and Abla” thrilled a stadium full of music lovers on Friday and Saturday at the Princess Noura University.
“It was a wonderful initiative that portrayed Arabic culture and heritage through a musical interpretation, for the whole family to enjoy,” said Muna AbuSulayman, who saw the show on Friday.
And if the audience loved the performers, the performers were equally delighted with the audience. “You could feel the their energy. It was magnificent,” the Lebanese soprano Lara Jokhadar, who played Abla, told Arab News after the show.
The singer who played Antar, Wadih Abi Raad, also from Lebanon, told Arab News: “The audience were very responsive to the opera, even, if we may say, thirsty for the opera and this kind of classy entertainment.
“I love it and loved the audience’s honest response to our performance. They felt our performance wholeheartedly and we felt their earnest response. It’s a pleasure and an honor to perform for educated people, like the Saudi people, and they were earnest in their feelings. I am happy and joyful. I would do it again with pleasure, for the lovely Saudi people.”
The opera retells the legendary story of a sixth-century Arab warrior and poet, Antar, and his forbidden but undying love for his beautiful cousin, Abla. Composed by Maroun Al-Rahi, Antoine Maalouf and Nayer Nagui, it had its premiere in Beirut in July 2016, and has also been performed in Bahrain.
‘The General Entertainment Authority encouraged us to do an Arabic opera rather than an international one,” said Amira Al-Taweel, chief executive of the sponsors, TIME Entertainment.
“The story stems from our heritage and culture. I very much enjoyed it as did the audience. After the show, I asked the team of performers for their honest opinion of how it went, and they answered that this was the best audience they have performed in front of until now.
“We are so happy and proud!”


Envoy highlights Saudi efforts to serve Muslims

Updated 10 min 4 sec ago
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Envoy highlights Saudi efforts to serve Muslims

  • Thailand is one of dozens of countries where Saudi clerics have been dispatched to lead prayers during the holy month of fasting
BANGKOK: Feeding Muslims during Ramadan is a benevolence program initiated by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Press Agency reported the Kingdom’s charge d’affaires in Bangkok as saying.
Abdul Ilah Al-Shuaibi made the remarks during the inauguration of an iftar program in Thailand, adding that the initiative was not seasonal but part of continuous efforts from the Saudi leadership to care for Muslims around the world.
Thailand is one of dozens of countries where Saudi clerics have been dispatched to lead prayers during the holy month of fasting.
“The program to feed Ramadan fasters, organized by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance, is a benevolence program initiated by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the good of Muslims around the globe,” Al-Shuaibi said.
“The ministry, led by Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, is making great efforts and Thais are enthusiastic about these efforts and the Qur’an teaching program.”
There were many Kingdom-led projects in Thailand, he added, including a development fund to set up a residential camp and schools for Rohingya refugees in coordination with the UN and the Thai government.
“The Kingdom also sends dates to be distributed among mosques and charities, as well as copies of the mushaf (the written form of the Qur’an) in Arabic and Thai,” he said.