‘The Phantom of the Opera’ thrills audiences in Riyadh

‘The Phantom of the Opera’ thrills audiences in Riyadh
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The world-famous musical 'The Phantom of the Opera,' which is inspired by the classic book by Gaston Leroux, will bring melody, love, and mystery to the stage at The Arena Riyadh this winter. (AN photo by Abdulrhman bin Shalhoub)
‘The Phantom of the Opera’ thrills audiences in Riyadh
2 / 6
The world-famous musical 'The Phantom of the Opera,' which is inspired by the classic book by Gaston Leroux, will bring melody, love, and mystery to the stage at The Arena Riyadh this winter. (AN photo by Abdulrhman bin Shalhoub)
‘The Phantom of the Opera’ thrills audiences in Riyadh
3 / 6
The world-famous musical 'The Phantom of the Opera,' which is inspired by the classic book by Gaston Leroux, will bring melody, love, and mystery to the stage at The Arena Riyadh this winter. (AN photo by Abdulrhman bin Shalhoub)
‘The Phantom of the Opera’ thrills audiences in Riyadh
4 / 6
The world-famous musical 'The Phantom of the Opera,' which is inspired by the classic book by Gaston Leroux, will bring melody, love, and mystery to the stage at The Arena Riyadh this winter. (AN photo by Abdulrhman bin Shalhoub)
‘The Phantom of the Opera’ thrills audiences in Riyadh
5 / 6
The world-famous musical 'The Phantom of the Opera,' which is inspired by the classic book by Gaston Leroux, will bring melody, love, and mystery to the stage at The Arena Riyadh this winter. (AN photo by Abdulrhman bin Shalhoub)
‘The Phantom of the Opera’ thrills audiences in Riyadh
6 / 6
The world-famous musical 'The Phantom of the Opera,' which is inspired by the classic book by Gaston Leroux, will bring melody, love, and mystery to the stage at The Arena Riyadh this winter. (AN photo by Abdulrhman bin Shalhoub)
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Updated 24 October 2023
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‘The Phantom of the Opera’ thrills audiences in Riyadh

‘The Phantom of the Opera’ thrills audiences in Riyadh
  • Arriving in the Saudi capital from London’s West End, award-winning production promises magical experience

RIYADH: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s critically acclaimed musical “The Phantom of the Opera,” is now running at The Arena Riyadh until Dec. 5.

Presented by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, in collaboration with Broadway Entertainment Group and by arrangement with the Really Useful Group, the show made its debut on Oct. 14 and will become the longest-running theatrical show to be staged in the Saudi capital.

“The Phantom of the Opera” is based on Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel of the same name. The musical is set in 1830s Paris, follows the Phantom — a musical genius — as he roams the shadows of the Paris Opera House. There, he encounters Christine, an enchanting soprano, drawing her into his world and nurturing her talents. Unbeknownst to Christine, the Phantom has begun to fall in love with her, but she already harbors feelings for the young nobleman Raoul, patron of the opera. What unfolds is a whirlwind of intense emotions that will keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

The iconic musical has earned more than 70 international theater awards, including seven Tony Awards in New York for its record-breaking Broadway run and four Olivier Awards in London’s West End.

 

“The Phantom of the Opera” is widely regarded as one of the greatest musicals of all time. The romantic score includes the much-loved songs “Think of Me,” “All I Ask of You,” “The Music of the Night,” and the iconic title song.

Lebanese-British actor Nadim Naaman plays the lead role in the production — the first time an actor of Middle Eastern origin has played the iconic part of the Phantom.

“I’m very happy to be here for the first time. I’ve been traveling around the Middle East my whole life. I’m Lebanese, but raised in London, so I have family in Beirut, in Dubai. I have friends in Doha,” Naaman told Arab News. “I’ve been very fortunate to work in this region for the last five or six years. But Saudi Arabia is the place where it’s happening now, you know? And, watching from London, the development of all the arts, the sport, the tourism, this 2030 Vision that’s happening here is very exciting. And it feels like the right time to bring a show like this here. The people of Riyadh deserve it.”

Naaman has been heavily involved in the production for the past 13 years, portraying the character of Raoul. He believes that the time is finally right for him to take on the role of the Phantom.

“I played the role of Raoul many times, and it has always been my dream to play the Phantom,” he said. “I just had to wait (to get to) the right age and the right point in my career. It’s the biggest privilege, because this is the most iconic role in musical theater for a man. The music is incredible.

“As a Middle Eastern performer, to be doing this for the first time in the Middle East is honestly a dream come true,” he continued. “I could never have imagined this. It’s a very special thing.”

The talented Australian soprano Georgia Wilkinson returns to her role as Christine Daae — one she has played on many occasions, including the show’s tour of Greece.

“I’ve wanted to come to Saudi for so many years and, finally, I get to be here — and for work,” she said. “We’ve been so busy rehearsing that I haven’t gotten to see much of it yet, but once we’re into performances, there’s quite a few places that we want to go, like the Edge of the World, Diriyah, Kingdom Tower … we’ve got a whole list that we’re going to work our way through.”

During her time at Melbourne University, Wilkinson’s exceptional abilities earned her the distinction of becoming the youngest-ever Opera Scholar of the Year and a recipient of the Robert Salzer Voice Award.

Her favorite song from the show, she told Arab News, is the title track. “I think it’s the first part of the soundtrack that I heard when I was a child and I just grasped onto it. It was like an earworm; it was constantly in my head, and I would sing along. It’s so emotive, and the vocal range is amazing. I could sing it 10 times a night. I just love it,” she explained.

The show’s Riyadh run is part of the RCRC’s efforts to offer a wide range of entertainment choices, aligning with the goals of Vision 2030’s Quality of Life Program.

Jasper Hope, an adviser to the Riyadh commission, said that arranging the performances in Riyadh took more than two years.

“That’s because this is the world’s most popular musical,” he explained. “Everybody in the world wants to see a production of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ in their city. (So) it’s taken us a little while. We had to get a venue that was suitable, we had to get a production and a company, we had to make the arrangements. These things can take time.

“This isn’t the first show that we’ve done here in Riyadh. We’ve been working for the last four or five months to bring shows pretty much every month, and we hope to continue that in the years to come,” he added.

There will be a total of 59 performances of the show in Riyadh, featuring a cast and crew numbering over 100, and more than 230 intricately designed costumes.

Andrew Riley, the set and costume designer, told Arab News: “I think designing a show anywhere has its challenges, to be honest, no matter where you are. It’s such a technically complicated and complex show. There’s a lot of moving scenery, automation, flying, and costume changes. There are over 150 costumes in the show, and there are a lot of quick changes, so it’s very technical,” he said.

While paying homage to the timeless legacy of “The Phantom of the Opera,” the Riyadh performance promises to deliver a “fresh and mesmerizing experience that will captivate both devoted fans and newcomers to the story.”

Tickets are available at phantom.platinumlist.net and ticketingboxoffice.com.


Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh

Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh
Updated 1 min 19 sec ago
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Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh

Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh

RIYADH: Award winners were crowned on the final day of the fourth Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh on Saturday, at a ceremony attended by prominent artistic and cinematic names, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The winners were nominated by a jury headed by Ibrahim Al-Hasawi from Saudi Arabia, who was joined by Bassam Al-Thawadi from Bahrain, Rawda Al-Thani from Qatar, Khaled Amin from Kuwait, Nujoom Al-Ghanem from the UAE and Ibrahim Al-Zadjali from Oman.
“Hajjan,” a coming-of-age drama set in Saudi Arabia about two brothers who battle to save their favorite camel starring Omar Al-Atawi and Abdulmohsen Alnemr, won the award for best feature film.
It also picked up the best photography award, with Jerry Fassbender recognized for his work on the film. Al-Atawi won the best actor award for his role.
The best actress award went to Bahraini Maryam Zeman for her part in the movie “My Word.”
The award for best short film went to the heavily tipped “Clouds,” about a widower and war veteran who are forced to balance their own morals with societal expectations in southern Oman, directed by Muzna Almusafer.
The award for best documentary film went to Mansoor Al-Dhaheri’s climate change expose “Swimming 62.”
Ziad Al-Hussein took home two awards, including one for best director, for his film “Shiabni Hani.”
The award for best original soundtrack went to Khaled Al-Kammar for his music that featured in the movie “Hawjan,” a modern twist on the ancient Arab jinn mythology, which also opened the latest edition of the Red Sea Festival last year.
The Gulf Cinema Festival was held under the patronage of Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, who is also chairman of the board of directors of the Film Commission, which organized the event.
This year’s festival hosted screenings of 29 films, three training workshops and six cultural seminars.
Abdullah Al-Qahtani, CEO of the commission, said in a speech during the ceremony that the festival embodied a commitment to supporting the film sector in the region and building bridges for cinematic cooperation between the Gulf countries.
He thanked Prince Badr for his sponsorship and support of the festival and the film sector in Saudi Arabia, as well as the general secretariat of the Gulf Cooperation Council.


Merwas — Riyadh’s beating heart of creativity

Merwas — Riyadh’s beating heart of creativity
Updated 20 April 2024
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Merwas — Riyadh’s beating heart of creativity

Merwas — Riyadh’s beating heart of creativity
  • World’s largest music production studio is nurturing Saudi talent, streamlining local industry

RIYADH: Riyadh’s Merwas, considered the biggest art and entertainment factory globally, is proving to be one of Saudi Arabia’s greatest music industry assets.

Nada Al-Tuwaijri, co-founder and CEO of Merwas, told Arab News that the facility, which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest music production studio, “is home to all artists.”

She added: “The methodology behind it is to create solutions through the subsidiaries, and invest in both talent and infrastructure.

“Alongside it being a one-stop shop for all content creators, we strive to take our local talents from local to global and create a unique stamp in the industry.”

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, Merwas fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, along with hosting workshops, networking sessions, and community events. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub/Supplied)

The entertainment zone and audiovisual production studio, located in Boulevard Riyadh City, houses 22 main studios alongside its academy.

Some of the top musicians in the world have visited Merwas since it opened in 2022. These include DJ Khaled, the acclaimed Saudi singer Rabeh Saqer, and the Emirati singer Ahlam. Afrojack, a world-renowned Dutch DJ and producer, also led an electronic music boot camp to nurture local talent and inspire a new generation of Saudi artists.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Merwas, located in Boulevard Riyadh City, houses 22 main studios alongside its academy.

• The academy’s classes offer local creatives and artists direct access to seasoned expertise.

• The Earth Sound Studio, or ESS, named after the late Saudi composer Talal Maddah.

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, the culture factory fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, while providing artists with access to top-tier services, facilities and industry expertise.

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, Merwas fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, along with hosting workshops, networking sessions, and community events. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub/Supplied)

The Earth Sound Studio, or ESS, named after the late Saudi composer Talal Maddah, features state-of-the-art technology, such as the SSL console, which is used to create depth on music tracks and ensures the true soul of the artist’s voice is protected.

This live recording space is booked almost every day by various artists, and has been used by some of the Arab region’s biggest stars.

The facility, which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest music production studio, is home to all artists according to co-founder Nada Al-Tuwaijri. (Supplied)

One of the only five Neve consoles in the world can be found in the Neve Studio. The panel is known for its high-quality sound and warmth, and is ideal for music recording, vocal tracking, and mixing for exceptional audio quality.

Its live studio can accommodate over 120 orchestra members and their instruments to provide a unique recording experience.

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, Merwas fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, along with hosting workshops, networking sessions, and community events. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub/Supplied)

Specifically designed for electronic music production, the EMP Suite is a DJ’s dream, with cutting edge synthesizers and digital audio workstations ensuring an artist leaves the room with a fully produced track.

Merwas is also home to three production suites, designed for content creators who require a comfortable and professional environment for music production, editing, and mixing. Each suite is equipped with industry-standard gear, software, and acoustics to support a wide range of projects.

Nada Al-Tuwaijri, Merwas cofounder and CEO

The studio also provides private rehearsal spaces to ensure Saudi talents are nourished to their full potential. The versatile space is designed for musicians, performers, and other artists to rehearse and refine their craft within a comfortable environment with access to instruments and equipment.

Part of the charm of recording studios is the live jam sessions that have given birth to some of the most iconic records to date. Merwas’ Band Live/Control Room also captures the spontaneity of live performance within its soundproof walls.

Alongside (Merwas) being a one-stop shop for all content creators, we strive to take our local talents from local to global and create a unique stamp in the industry.

Nada Al-Tuwaijri, Merwas cofounder and CEO

Championing audiovisual pursuits, the studio has made space for high-quality podcasts and videos to come to life.

The podcast suite and FM radio recording spaces are tailored to immerse listeners with unbeatable audio clarity, while the 25-meter-long Green Screen room helps ideas come to life, whether commercial, film, or music video.

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, Merwas fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, along with hosting workshops, networking sessions, and community events. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub/Supplied)

Material can then be edited at the color-grading suite, which is essentially a small theater with 4K projector. Producers, directors, writers, and engineers gather here to put the final visual touches on video projects through its DaVinci color grading software and hardware.

Academy Classes offers local creatives and artists direct access to seasoned expertise. These feature advanced stations for sound production, engineering, and technical programs, with everything necessary for a basic understanding and training of music production.

The studio hosts workshops, networking sessions, and community events in an effort to flourish the music industry locally while making it a magnet for international talent. Anyone can be a part of this community by booking a suite or signing up for a workshop on their website merwas.sa.

Merwas has positioned itself at the the forefront of the entertainment industry being the first of its kind in the MENA region. In less than a year since its launch, it has already became a hotspot for musicians across the globe to visit and utilize its services, from rising talents to international A-listers.

Founded by Al-Tuwaijri and Chief Content Officer Rumian Al-Rumayyan in partnership with Sela, Merwas treasures Saudi creativity and is a vital part of building an ecosystem and community for local artists.

Their partnership with the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property has set a new focus on preserving the rights of local creatives, pillared by the aim to enrich the culture of the Kingdom while empowering its citizens and their creativity in an environment of abundant knowledge, education in culture, art, entertainment and music.

 


15k held for labor, residency, border violations in KSA

Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s law. (SPA)
Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s law. (SPA)
Updated 20 April 2024
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15k held for labor, residency, border violations in KSA

Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s law. (SPA)
  • The report showed that among the 996 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 64 percent were Ethiopian, 33 percent Yemeni, and 3 percent were of other nationalities

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested almost 15,000 people in one week for breaching residency, work and border security regulations, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

According to an official report, a total of 9,479 people were arrested for violations of residency laws, while 3,763 were held over illegal border crossing attempts, and a further 1,430 for labor-related issues.

The report showed that among the 996 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 64 percent were Ethiopian, 33 percent Yemeni, and 3 percent were of other nationalities.

A further 37 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and six were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior said that anyone found to be facilitating illegal entry to the Kingdom, including providing transportation and shelter, could face imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), as well as confiscation of vehicles and property.

Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of the Kingdom.

 


Authorities bust drug smugglers across Saudi Arabia

Authorities bust drug smugglers across Saudi Arabia
Updated 20 April 2024
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Authorities bust drug smugglers across Saudi Arabia

Authorities bust drug smugglers across Saudi Arabia
  • The Saudi government urges anyone with information related to suspected smuggling operations or customs violations to call the confidential hotline 1910, the international number +966114208417, or to email [email protected]

RIYADH: Saudi authorities recently made several drug-related arrests and confiscations in operations across the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

Border Guard land patrols in Al-Ardah governorate, Jazan region arrested a Yemeni national attempting to smuggle 60 kg of qat.

In the Saqam sector of Najran region, the land patrols thwarted the smuggling of 58 kg of hashish.

The General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested a Bangladeshi resident in the Hail region for attempting to sell methamphetamine, a narcotic substance commonly referred to as “shabu.”

The authorities also arrested a citizen in Jazan for selling amphetamines, highly addictive drugs that stimulate the central nervous system.

Preliminary legal procedures have been completed for all the individuals involved and all seized items have been handed over to the relevant authorities.

The Saudi government urges anyone with information related to suspected smuggling operations or customs violations to call the confidential hotline 1910, the international number +966114208417, or to email [email protected].

Tips received relating to smuggling and breaches of common customs law are treated with strict confidentiality. Financial rewards are offered for valid tips.

 


Saudi deputy FM meets Colombian counterpart in Bogotá

Francisco Coy Granados receives Waleed Elkhereiji in Bogotá. (Supplied)
Francisco Coy Granados receives Waleed Elkhereiji in Bogotá. (Supplied)
Updated 6 sec ago
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Saudi deputy FM meets Colombian counterpart in Bogotá

Francisco Coy Granados receives Waleed Elkhereiji in Bogotá. (Supplied)
  • The two reviewed bilateral relations and ways in which they could be strengthened, along with the latest developments and issues of mutual concern

BOGOTÁ: Saudi Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Waleed Elkhereiji recently met his Colombian counterpart, Francisco Coy Granados, the foreign ministry reported on X on Saturday.

During the meeting, the two reviewed bilateral relations and ways in which they could be strengthened, along with the latest developments and issues of mutual concern.

The meeting was also attended by Acting Charge d’Affairs of Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Colombia Mohammed Al-Shatri, and the director general of the deputy minister’s office, Mutashar Al-Enezi.