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

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!”


Hana Abdullah Alomair, Saudi film director

Updated 9 min 23 sec ago

Hana Abdullah Alomair, Saudi film director

Hana Abdullah Alomair is the director of Netflix’s first Saudi thriller original series, titled “Whispers,” which is due to begin streaming in 190 countries on June 11. 

A Saudi writer, filmmaker, and movie critic, Alomair won the Silver Palm Tree Award for best script at the Saudi Film Competition in 2008.

She gained a bachelor’s degree in Arabic-English translation from King Saud University in 1992 and four years later a master’s degree in the same field of study from Heriot-Watt University, in Scotland.

Her documentary “Beyond Words” was screened during the Gulf Film Festival in 2019 and was selected for the main competition in this year’s Muscat International Film Festival.

A member of the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, she has worked as a head writer in writing workshops for several TV series. She was a jury member at the Saudi Film Festival held by Rotana in 2013. Her second
flick, “The Complaint,” was selected in the main competition of Tessa’s Festival for Asian and African Films in Morocco in 2014 and it won the Golden Palm
Tree Award for best short fiction film in the Saudi Film Competition in 2015.

In 2016, Alomair, together with Hind Al-Fahhad, scooped the prize for best script for the short film “Peddlers” at the King Fahd Center Short Film Competition.

She recently published a book about the Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa, and in 2017 wrote a play called “Qat Oqat.”

Last year, she wrote and directed her latest short film “Swan Song,” which won the Golden Palm Tree Award for best actor in the Saudi Film Festival.