RIYADH: Saudi opera singer Mohammed Khayran Al-Zahrani on Monday brought the curtain down on the Kingdom’s first International Opera Festival.
Dressed in a white thobe and ghutra he took to the Abu Baker Salem stage in Riyadh Boulevard city to perform a variety of classic songs.
The inaugural three-day festival, organized by the Ministry of Culture, featured nearly two hours of opera per night, each show pairing a Saudi and international opera singer.
In an earlier tweet, the ministry said: “For the first time in the Kingdom, the ministry is organizing the International Opera Festival in Riyadh with the participation of the best Saudi international and Arab musicians.”
The festival opened with a performance by the first professional Saudi opera singer Sawsan Al-Bahiti, along with the Maltese operatic tenor Joseph Calleja. Day two saw Armenian dramatic baritone Gevorg Hakobyan take to the stage alongside Mostafa Shirah, and the grand finale featured Al-Zahrani and Australian-American Danielle de Niese.
The outdoor space at the Abu Bakr Salem stage had a secluded area behind the flashy billboards, complete with red carpet and large white statues with red roses lining the entrance. Intimate white round tables clustered the area, with red roses and tiny appetizers placed on each one.
Al-Zahrani started his performance with a rendition of Henry Purcell’s “King Arthur: What Power Art Thou,” followed by “Nessun Dorma” from Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot, and later, he sang an Arabic song, a cappella.
The festival also included an exhibition of classic opera-related art and other items including fashion and historic musical instruments.
In addition, educational workshops were offered covering a variety of opera-related topics such as singing, the history of opera, the theory and practice of the mechanisms of the vocal operatic art, the orchestra and history of musical instruments, and the piano.
The festival was supported by the Kingdom’s Quality of Life Program, as part of Saudi Vision 2030 and the reform plan’s aim of opening up new cultural avenues and providing enriching experiences through the hosting of international events in a variety of arts-related fields.