Italian opera star hits the high notes in world-first AlUla concert

The performance will see Andrea Bocelli, 62, perform against the backdrop of Nabataean tombs in the ancient city of Hegra. (Supplied)
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The performance will see Andrea Bocelli, 62, perform against the backdrop of Nabataean tombs in the ancient city of Hegra. (Supplied)
Andrea Bocelli with family, including son Matteo, at Hegra, AlUla. (Supplied)
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Andrea Bocelli with family, including son Matteo, at Hegra, AlUla. (Supplied)
Andrea Bocelli with family, including son Matteo, at Hegra, AlUla. (Supplied)
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Andrea Bocelli with family, including son Matteo, at Hegra, AlUla. (Supplied)
Andrea Bocelli with family, including son Matteo, at Hegra, AlUla. (Supplied)
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Andrea Bocelli with family, including son Matteo, at Hegra, AlUla. (Supplied)
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Updated 09 April 2021

Italian opera star hits the high notes in world-first AlUla concert

Italian opera star hits the high notes in world-first AlUla concert
  • Only 300 people will be allowed to attend the concert in person
  • Performance is being live-streamed live on Bocelli's YouTube channel

ALULA: Italian opera tenor Andrea Bocelli enchanted an audience in AlUla on Thursday in what is believed to be the first-ever performance within the walls of the ancient desert city.

In his third performance in the Kingdom, Bocelli serenaded a limited number of concert-goers at the heritage site due to social distancing measures, but the concert was no less mesmerising than his previous shows at Maraya Concert Hall as part of the Winter at Tantora Festival.

The biggest surprise of the evening was the tenor’s 9-year-old daughter Virginia Bocelli, making a Middle East debut with her father on the stage playing the guitar and singing the lyrics the iconic Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah”.




The master tenor delivered a stripped- back set with musicians from the Arabian Philharmonic, and special guests Loren Allred, Matteo Bocelli, soprano Francesca Maionchi and Eugene Kohn at the piano.

The spectacular backdrop to the concert and the response of the audience left him eager to perform in other Saudi cities.

“It is rare to perceive such a strong empathy such as that experienced in your land,” Bocelli told Arab News.

“At each concert, I am amazed by the warmth with which I am welcomed, and I feel alive and privileged to witness the brotherly power of music,” he said.

Bocelli’s performance to fewer than 300 people is believed to be the first within the walls of the ancient desert city of Hegra.
 
Recalling his previous concerts in the Kingdom, the master tenor said that is happy to see how popular his music is among Saudis. “It is a nice surprise that keeps on increasing every time I return.”




The spectacular backdrop to the concert and the response of the audience left him eager to perform in other Saudi cities.

Bocelli said that he has heard about the “refined culture of hospitality” that distinguishes Saudis, but experiencing it firsthand was overwhelming and “exceeded all expectations.”
 
The tenor shared a few tips for professional and aspiring Saudi opera singers, reminding them that a beautiful voice is only one of many “necessary ingredients.”

“To be able to sing well, in a convincing way, you need to have a passion. If you want to excite those who listen to you, you need to have something to tell, values to communicate and share.

“It takes determination, frankness and discipline, but always proceeding with optimism and confidence in one’s passions,” he said.




Andrea Bocelli with family, including son Matteo, at Hegra, AlUla. (Supplied)

Bocelli advised Saudi opera singers not to be intimidated by the challenges, but to “treasure any accidents along the way, and do not give up, do not stop believing in your potential.”

AlUla’s captivating beauty and serenity, and the welcoming nature of its locals were among many memories the musician said he will take home.

“I think of the splendor of the clear air that dominates your views. Having to choose one favorite thing about Saudi Arabia, I cannot fail to mention the enchanted place that is AlUla, a spectacular and magical witness to man’s quest for beauty.”

The master tenor delivered a stripped-back set with musicians from the Arabian Philharmonic, and special guests Loren Allred, Matteo Bocelli, soprano Francesca Maionchi and Eugene Kohn at the piano.




Bocelli performed against a backdrop of 20 carved tombs of Al-Khuraymat.

Hegra, built in the first century by the Nabataean kingdom, is an ancient desert city home to thousands of tombs cut into sandstone mountains. At least 100 tombs have elaborate carved facades, a signature of the skilled Nabataean craftsmen.

Bocelli performed against a backdrop of 20 carved tombs of Al-Khuraymat.

Archaeologists say the tombs are among the best preserved in Hegra, and feature elegant gynosphinxes (spirit guardians with women’s heads, lions’ bodies and wings) adorning the pediments.

 


Saudi chain ALBAIK opens in Dubai

Saudi chain ALBAIK opens in Dubai
Updated 17 June 2021

Saudi chain ALBAIK opens in Dubai

Saudi chain ALBAIK opens in Dubai
  • ALBAIK was established in Jeddah in 1974 and has grown to more than 120 branches

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s famous fast-food chain ALBAIK opened their first branch in Dubai Mall on Wednesday, bringing its range of dishes to the UAE for the first time.

Following the opening of three branches in Bahrain at the end of 2020, ALBAIK was encouraged to open in Dubai. The new 355-square-meter restaurant will serve a wide array of chicken and seafood, grilled dishes, and vegetarian options.

ALBAIK was established in Jeddah in 1974 and has grown to more than 120 branches throughout Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Listed by CNN as one of the best eight fast-food chains around the world. ALBAIK has developed a community of fanatics across Saudi Arabia.


Billionaire admits cheating to beat Indian chess champ Viswanathan Anand

Billionaire admits cheating to beat Indian chess champ Viswanathan Anand
Updated 15 June 2021

Billionaire admits cheating to beat Indian chess champ Viswanathan Anand

Billionaire admits cheating to beat Indian chess champ Viswanathan Anand
  • Online brokerage firm founder Nikhil Kamath admitted to using “computers” to gain the upper hand

NEW DELHI: A young Indian billionaire has admitted to cheating in a shock win over five-time chess world champion Viswanathan Anand, saying it was for “fun and charity.”
Online brokerage firm founder Nikhil Kamath took on Anand during an online charity event on Sunday and caused quite a stir when he came out on top in a 30-minute rapid game.
The next day he admitted to using “computers” and the help of “people analyzing the game” to gain the upper hand.
“It is ridiculous that so many are thinking that I really beat Vishy sir in a chess game, that is almost like me waking up and winning a 100mt race with Usain Bolt,” Kamath tweeted.
“In hindsight, it was quite silly as I didn’t realize all the confusion that can get caused due to this. Apologies.”
Anand, acclaimed as the greatest player India has produced, played — and beat — a number of celebrity guests including cricketer Yuzvendra Chahal and Bollywood actor Aamir Khan during the event.
The 51-year-old grandmaster appeared to play down the whole affair.
“Yesterday was a celebrity simul for people to raise money It was a fun experience upholding the ethics of the game,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I just played the position (on the) board and expected the same from everyone.”
India’s chess federation saw the incident as violating the spirit of the game.
“We don’t expect anybody to get help from computers, at the national and state level we are following the protocols,” the federation’s secretary Bharat Chauhan told local media.
“(Kamath) was doing it for charity, he shouldn’t have done. This is really bad,” he added.
Anand won his first world title aged 30, and enjoyed great rivalries with the likes of Russian champions Gary Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik and Soviet-born Israeli Boris Gelfand.


Joe Biden confuses Syria with Libya repeatedly at G7

Joe Biden confuses Syria with Libya repeatedly at G7
Updated 15 June 2021

Joe Biden confuses Syria with Libya repeatedly at G7

Joe Biden confuses Syria with Libya repeatedly at G7

DUBAI: US President Joe Biden appeared to confuse Syria with Libya while speaking at a G7 press conference where he was discussing ways of working with Russia.

The US president was discussing how he might work with Russian President Vladimir Putin to provide aid to countries torn apart by civil war. 

He then briefly mixed up the two nations, which resulted in several confused glances at the press. 

“And so, there’s a lot going on where we can work together with Russia. For example, in Libya, we should be opening up the passes to be able to go through and provide — provide food assistance and economic — I mean, vital assistance to a population that’s in real trouble.”

“And, for example, the rebuilding of — of Syria, of Libya, of — you know, this is — they’re there. And as long as they’re there without the ability to bring about some order in the — in the region, and you can’t do that very well without providing for the basic economic needs of people,” he further said.

White House officials later clarified the confusion and confirmed that the US President was referring to Syria in his speech. 


Jill Biden, Duchess of Cambridge learn bunny care on tour

Jill Biden, Duchess of Cambridge learn bunny care on tour
Updated 11 June 2021

Jill Biden, Duchess of Cambridge learn bunny care on tour

Jill Biden, Duchess of Cambridge learn bunny care on tour
  • Biden and the former Kate Middleton visited with 4- and 5-year-olds who attend Connor Downs Academy in Hayle
  • “It’s a huge honor to have you in the United Kingdom,” the duchess said just before the discussion

HAYLE, England: US first lady Jill Biden and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, learned about bunny care Friday as they toured a preschool during a joint outing in southwest England.
They also took part in a talk about early childhood education with experts from the UK and some from the United States who joined the discussion via Zoom.
“It’s a huge honor to have you in the United Kingdom,” the duchess said just before the discussion. She thanked Biden — a longtime English teacher — for her interest in early education, also a topic of interest for the duchess, who has three young children with husband Prince William.


Biden, 70, and the former Kate Middleton, 39, visited with 4- and 5-year-olds who attend Connor Downs Academy in Hayle. The school works with children who have experienced trauma. It also has outdoor classrooms where children plant vegetables and flowers and tend to rabbits.
Biden carried a bowl of carrots when the women went outside to see Storm, one of several bunnies housed in pens, and handed the bowl to a group of kids so they could feed him.
Before the indoor roundtable, Biden said she was glad to visit the school.
“I met some wonderful teachers and principals and most of all the children, who were so inspiring and well behaved,” the first lady said. “I couldn’t get over it.”
She is traveling with her husband, President Joe Biden, who is attending a Group of Seven summit of leaders from the world’s largest economies that opened Friday in Carbis Bay.
She thanked the news media for covering the appearance “because early childhood education is so important to lay the foundation for all of our students.”


Both women took notes during the discussion, which centered on child mental health and the importance of early education in childhood development.
As they departed, reporters asked Biden if she had sought advice from the duchess on meeting Queen Elizabeth II, which the Bidens are set to do at a summit reception later Friday, followed by tea with the monarch on Sunday at Windsor Castle.
“No, I didn’t,” the first lady replied. “We’ve been busy. Were you not in that room. We were talking education.”
Jill Biden is scheduled to head back to Washington after meeting the queen, while the president continues on to Brussels for a NATO summit and to Switzerland for a highly anticipated one-on-one summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Top Swiss court rejects climate activists’ appeal over tennis stunt

Top Swiss court rejects climate activists’ appeal over tennis stunt
Updated 11 June 2021

Top Swiss court rejects climate activists’ appeal over tennis stunt

Top Swiss court rejects climate activists’ appeal over tennis stunt
  • ‘At the time of their action, there was no current and immediate danger’ under Swiss law, the court said
  • In September appeals court found them guilty of "trespassing", a ruling upheld by Federal Court on Friday

GENEVA: Switzerland’s highest court on Friday rejected an appeal by environmental activists who were sentenced for trespassing after invading a bank to play tennis dressed as Roger Federer.
The Federal Court dismissed the activists’ argument that their playful demonstration two and a half years ago was an emergency action justified by the climate crisis.
“At the time of their action, there was no current and immediate danger,” according to the definition under Swiss law, the court said in a statement.
In November 2018, the 12 activists entered a Credit Suisse branch in Lausanne to denounce Swiss tennis star Federer over his sponsorship deals with Switzerland’s second-biggest bank and its financing of fossil fuels.
In January last year, a lower court acquitted the 12 defendants, accepting their “state of necessity” legal argument, finding that they had acted legitimately in the face of the climate emergency.
But an appeals court reversed that verdict last September, heeding the view of the public prosecutor who urged judges to “practice law, not emotion,” according to Swiss news agency Keystone-ATS.
It found them guilty of “trespassing” — a ruling upheld by the Federal Court on Friday.
The activists immediately announced that they intended to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights, in defense of their “fundamental rights,” including the right to free expression and to demonstrate peacefully.
Laila Batou, a defense lawyer for one of the activists, slammed the decision and the court’s “lack of ambition,” according to Keystone-ATS.
“The Federal Court could have given a clear signal recognizing that global warming constitutes an imminent danger, but also that, in some situations, civil disobedience is necessary,” she told the news agency.
Instead, she said, the court “has ruled in favor of the powerful, the big corporations who can continue business as usual to the detriment of young people.”