NEW YORK: The Saudi National Orchestra and Choir performed on Sunday at the world-renowned Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
The “Marvels of Saudi Orchestra” concert, a collaborative effort between the Saudi Theater and Performing Arts Commission, the Saudi Music Commission, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture, was the Saudi National Orchestra’s debut event in the US.
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“Art has the possibility of triumphing over adversity,” Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb said in his opening speech at the event.
The concert showcased Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural and musical heritage, opening with a series of folk songs under maestro Riab Ahmed. The musical numbers were masterfully performed by a large orchestra of musicians playing modern and traditional Arab instruments, including the oud and flute.
Performers wore traditional Saudi garb, while female singers in the choir donned purple dresses and headscarves. Each song demonstrated a different type of traditional Saudi music while various performing arts on display included Samri, Majrour, Rubsh, Al-Khatwa, and Liwa.
The first session of the concert ended with an Arabized version of the classic American song “Fly Me to the Moon,” made popular by Frank Sinatra.
After the opening session, Saudi opera singer Reemaz Oqbi — one of the only Saudis to ever study opera — took to the stage with a rendition of “Habanera” from the world-famous opera Carmen, followed by the American vintage piece “Kiss Me Again.”
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The concert’s third session brought the atmosphere back to the West with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars. The jazz group first performed pieces inspired by their namesake, the great American trumpeter and bandleader John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie.
After an East-meets-West, jazz-Arabic fusion instrumental song played by Saudi musicians and the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars, the latter group’s saxophonist Tim Ries praised the collaboration between the two.
“We need no words, only the heart that beat together. We’ve become like family after only two days,” Ries said.
The concert ended with a medley of popular Saudi songs played by the Saudi National Orchestra and Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars together, ending in a rousing rendition of “The Renewer” by Abbas Ibrahim.
The Saudi National Orchestra and Choir is the seventh initiative in a series of projects launched by the Ministry of Culture, aligning with the cultural heritage oriented goals of Saudi Vision 2030. Though this is their first time performing in the US, the musicians have performed in Riyadh, Jeddah, Paris, Mexico, and Jordan.