JEDDAH: The musical cultures of Saudi Arabia and Europe were in perfect harmony in Jeddah during Voices for Peace, a special gala operatic concert in celebration of Europe Day.
The show, which took place at Battarjee Medical College on Thursday night, featured Saudi opera singer Sawsan Al-Bahati and her French counterpart, Aurelie Loilier. They were accompanied by two orchestras conducted by Algerian maestro Amine Kouider.
It was organized by the Consulate General of France in Jeddah and the audience included Mostafa Mihraje, the French Consul General, and Makarem Battarjee, the president of Saudi German Hospitals Group.
Highlighting France’s role in Europe Day, an EU celebration of peace and unity in Europe that is held on May 9 each year, Mihraje explained that his country was one of the six founding members of the union, alongside Belgium, German, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
“This, of course, gives us a special responsibility in this regard, especially given that starting today, for six months, France is heading the European Union,” he told Arab News.
“Of course this is something we are proud of and that gives us a great responsibility in this regard, in light of the crises that Europe is going through — Russia’s attack on Ukraine in particular.
“We are very happy today because we gave an example that cultures build bridges between two countries. And as you saw today, the French musical group and the Saudi musical group sang and played music in a special, organized and harmonious way. And we are very proud of this.”
Loilier said that the chance to sing alongside Saudi counterpart Al-Bahiti was a very meaningful experience.
“Of course, it’s a very important moment and it’s unique and it was a great pleasure for me to be there,” said the soprano. “It’s quite new to sing like this … and I hope we will come back and sing again with Sawsan, in France maybe. I hope she will come to France to sing with me as a next step.
“It’s a way to share emotions and to feel the friendship between everyone.”
Al-Bahiti said that this was the first time she had performed a duet with a professional, international opera singer.
“I’m overexcited and very happy for this event that allowed us a nice cultural exchange between both countries,” she said, adding that the message she wants to send out as an artist is one of unity.
“This event has made it happen and it’s only the beginning. Unity is the message for music. Music is the language of the world; we talk by music through our heart, so this is exactly what we want to achieve.”
The concert in Jeddah was the second performance of Voices for Peace, following a show in Riyadh the night before.
Amjaad Aiman, a member of a Saudi choir that took part in the concerts, said she had a great time practicing and performing.
“We represented the Arabic side, alongside the French orchestra,” she said. “The preparations and choral singing were so much fun and were a beautiful experience for me.
“We’ve been rehearsing since Monday and first sang at the Cultural Palace in Riyadh on Wednesday, and now in Jeddah at Battarjee Medical College.”