Opera star Andrea Bocelli regales music lovers at Saudi Arabia’s Tantora Winter Festival

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Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday night at this week’s Winter at Tantora concert. (AN photo/Hala Tashkandi)
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Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday night at this week’s Winter at Tantora concert. (AN photo)
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Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday night at this week’s Winter at Tantora concert. (AN photo)
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Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday night at this week’s Winter at Tantora concert. (AN photo/Hala Tashkandi)
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Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday night at this week’s Winter at Tantora concert. (AN photo)
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Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday night at this week’s Winter at Tantora concert. (AN photo/Hala Tashkandi)
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Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday night at this week’s Winter at Tantora concert. (AN photo/Hala Tashkandi)
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Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday night at this week’s Winter at Tantora concert. (AN photo/Hala Tashkandi)
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Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday night at this week’s Winter at Tantora concert. (AN photo/Hala Tashkandi)
Updated 01 February 2019

Opera star Andrea Bocelli regales music lovers at Saudi Arabia’s Tantora Winter Festival

  • Bocelli, 60, appeared to be in great spirits as he greeted the crowd with a rousing performance of “La Donna E Mobile”
  • Winter at Tantora, now in its seventh week, was recently extended with two more concert dates added to the roster

TANTORA: Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday night at this week’s Winter at Tantora concert.
The Tuscan tenor, known worldwide for his unique blend of modern pop and classic opera, delighted his audience with a truly spectacular performance at Al-Ula’s Maraya Concert Hall.
Bocelli told fans that he was delighted to be performing for the first time in Saudi Arabia, and that he hoped he would be able to return in the future to perform again.
“This is my first time to perform in Saudi Arabia, and I’m very pleased with the great reception and hospitality I received from the organizers and the wonderful audience here,” he said.
“Al-Ula is a great surprise. It’s a beautiful natural destination, and it has been an honor to sing in such majestic surroundings.”
The concert, conducted by Marcello Rota, featured the National Symphony Orchestra accompanying Bocelli, as well as performances by soprano Maria Aleida Rodriguez, violinist Anastasiya Petryshak and guest singer Ilaria Della Bidia.
The concert featured a variety of performances by Bocelli and his companions, including solos by Rodriguez, Della Bidia and Petryshak.
Bocelli, 60, appeared to be in great spirits as he greeted the crowd with a rousing performance of “La Donna E Mobile.”
Along with his companions, he performed some of his most popular hits, such as “Donna Non Vida Mai”, “Canto Della Terra” and “Granada,” as well as a selection of opera classics.
“It’s a great pleasure to be here for the first time. I’m very emotional about this,” he told fans. “It’s an honor to be here.”
He said he had a special connection to the Kingdom because it was his Saudi friend Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel who encouraged him to create the Andrea Bocelli Foundation, a charitable organization for music and science.
One of the biggest surprises of the night came when Bocelli stepped out onto the stage wearing a ghutra (a traditional Saudi men’s headdress), which garnered thunderous applause from the crowd.
Bocelli gained fame in the 1990s as an opera singer worthy of international attention. Blind since the age of 12, he has nonetheless managed to gain global fame as an opera singer and obtain a law degree from the University of Pisa.
He has received multiple accolades and awards over the course of his career, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He was made a Grand Officer of the Order of the Merit of the Italian Republic, and has performed with some of the biggest names in music, including Luciano Pavarotti, Ed Sheeran and Celine Dion.
Fans were delighted to see Bocelli in the Kingdom, with many of them tweeting their support for him and urging him to return in the future.
“Please come back, Andrea,” tweeted one fan. “You have audiences in multiple cities. Saudi Arabia would love to have you again.”
Winter at Tantora, now in its seventh week, was recently extended with two more concert dates added to the roster.
The festival has enjoyed massive success during its run, with every concert selling out within days of being announced.
Featured renowned artists include Kathem Al-Saher, Rashid Al-Majed and Majed Al-Mohandis, among others.


Richard Bodeker: Ambassador of Green in Saudi Arabia

Updated 06 December 2019

Richard Bodeker: Ambassador of Green in Saudi Arabia

  • German landscape architect’s passion — to turn Saudi Arabia into a lush garden — became his mission

RIYADH: For 46 years, Richard Bodeker was devoted to turning Saudi Arabia into a lush garden. The architect landscaper recently passed away, but his green print lives on as he is celebrated for his loving work.

Gardening runs deep in the family as both he and his wife’s family are in the profession. Bodeker considered himself blessed because he could do what he loved, working with plants and creating gardens.

“He developed a real love of Saudi Arabia as his favorite country and created many lifelong friendships in the Kingdom,” Bodeker’s son, Jens Bodeker, told Arab News.

His relationship with Saudi clients was special. They had a great mutual understanding, said his son. One of those special relationships was with Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Space Commission. Bodeker landscaped his Al-Uthaibat Ranch in Diriyah.

“He opened the doors to all his friends, clients, colleagues and partners in Saudi Arabia. Most of his contacts became close friends to me, too,” Jens said.

Saudi Arabia honored the late Bodeker and his works when the minister of culture, Prince Badr Al-Farhan, named a park in Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter after the talented landscaper.

Creativity is key and he was never daunted by developing a green oasis in the midst of a desert capital. “As a plant lover, he was impressed by the survival strategies of desert plants. Acacia trees can develop 50-meter-deep roots to get water, for example. He was convinced to be able to water the trees by treated greywater which is produced by each citizen. So, each citizen could irrigate a tree by using water in the house,” Jens said.


THE LIST

Richard Bodeker projects in Saudi Arabia:

  • ‘Initiative Green’ developing a greening strategy for the city in the 1990s
  • Diriyah Mosque landscape design
  • King Fahd Road, the green corridor 
  • MOMRA, park and roof greening
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff housing
  • Court complex
  • King Abdul Aziz Historical Center parks and gardens
  • First ideas for King Salman Park, at that time Riyadh Public Park in the 1980s of last century
  • Thumamah Nature Park
  • Wadi Hanifah and Wadi Sulai as green lungs of Riyadh
  • Many private farms for members of the Royal family and many other clients
  • Initiation of a tree nursery for the Riyadh Development Authority
  • Regional park in Al-Hofuf,Jebel Qara

His vision to make use of the materials that can be found in nature with his strategy of “cut and fill,” in which he would cut Riyadh limestone and build a garden out of it. He maintained sustainability by using local sources for construction material. His approach was to create garden oases with local materials in respect of the site and the local culture, his son explained.

Bodeker’s passion was ramped with a desire to turn the desert capital into a green sanctuary. “He possessed strength, persuasiveness and the ability to assert himself to even fight for green, gardens and uncommon ideas. This passion made him an ambassador for green in the Kingdom,” he added.

Passion for his profession was the secret of his success: “Gardens and plants have been his lifelong loves,” said Jens, adding that “the creation of gardens was his real mission.”

 

Like father, like son 

Following his fathers’ footsteps, he inherited his passion and love for this country and landscape design from his father: “I feel the same passion when it comes to greening the country to work with nature and to follow nature in design,” he said.

“He shared his professional knowledge and passion for this country ... with me. The respect for tradition and culture in landscape design was essential,” he added.

“His passion for landscape design, especially the challenge to green the desert set me on fire and carries me to continue what he started. His focus laid on local material, like the Riyadh limestone and plants for arid regions to create lush garden oases.”

Of all his unique designs, Islamic gardens were the most symbolic. Jens explained: “Islamic gardens mirror paradise on earth with water, fruits and lush greens. He wanted to respond to this in his garden design works. Bodeker always saw gardens and green as the most important element in Riyadh.”

In 1993, Bodeker started the “Initiative Green,” which was Jens’ most significant influence.

The secret to great success is working with nature in environments, like the desert with its valleys, oases, escarpments, sand dunes and rock plains, he added.

“In Thumamah Nature Park, one can see the impact of land protection. The park is much greener than any landscape in the surroundings without that protection, just by fencing, nature recovers slowly,” Jens said.

“My part is to give my contribution to developing the landscape and environment for the better and give nature a chance. I will follow in his footsteps and will stand up for green as an ambassador for green environments, parks and gardens.”

From childhood, he and his brother had been strongly influenced by gardening and landscape design. For many years they worked together with their father. It was not always easy to work with him because his father had “a strong personality.” However, he noted that he found his own path which he learned through discussions and debates “to find my own place next to him.”