Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera

Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera
Sawsan AlBahiti, the first Saudi opera singer, will perform the role of the bridesmaid in Zarqa Al-Yamama. (Supplied)
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Updated 17 April 2024
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Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera

Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera
  • ‘Zarqa Al-Yamama’ aims to bring Saudi heritage to life and lead the way into a new cultural era in the Kingdom
  • Saudi singers Sawsan Al-Bahiti, Khayran Al-Zahrani and Reemaz Oqbi take on 3 key roles in the opera

RIYADH: With just a week to go, the stage is set for the eagerly anticipated first performance of “Zarqa Al-Yamama,” which organizers describe as the first grand Saudi opera in Arabic, at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh on April 25.

The libretto will be sung in Arabic, which is rare in opera as the vast majority of works are performed in European languages. As such, the Kingdom’s Theater and Performing Arts Commission said the event, which takes place under the patronage of Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, marks a turning point in an increasingly vibrant Saudi cultural scene, given the high artistic value of opera and the interest of connoisseurs and audiences around the world in the art form.

“Zarqa Al-Yamama” is based on well-known sung poems and music inspired by the operatic tradition, together with elements of Saudi music. It tells the story of the legendary figure Zarqa Al-Yamama, who lived in the Al-Yamama region of Najd during the pre-Islamic era and is caught up in a dispute between her tribe and another that ends in tragedy.

The producers describe the opera as a poignant tragedy with breathtaking suspense, brought to life in a state-of-the-art theatrical production filled with sweeping orchestral movements and mesmerizing choral performances that deliver a unique cultural experience. 




Sawsan AlBahiti. (Supplied)

Sultan Al-Bazie, the CEO of the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, said the opera embodies well-established elements of Saudi heritage and presents a well-known story within a contemporary framework that reflects modern artistic trends and audience expectations.

It is a collaborative project featuring Saudi and international artists. Saudi poet Saleh Zamanan, who has received several local and international awards for his poetry and plays, wrote the words, inspired by the historical story of Zarqa and adding his own literary stamp.

Saudi artists Sawsan Al-Bahiti, Khayran Al-Zahrani and Reemaz Oqbi take on three key roles in the opera, which is a sign of the progress in the development of musical entertainment in the Kingdom.

“I will be performing the role of the bridesmaid, which is part of a major scene in the opera where the story takes a major turn to more thrilling events,” Al-Bahiti told Arab News.

Considered the first Saudi opera singer, she has been leading the way in the development of the Saudi opera scene and “Zarqa Al-Yamama” provides the latest showcase for her incredible vocal talent. She said the production is contemporary and innovative, and demonstrates a rich complexity that will captivate the audience.

“From the day I started training as an opera singer in 2008, I dreamed of an original Saudi opera production sung in Arabic,” said Al-Bahiti. “This day has finally come, and arrived sooner than I expected, which makes me even happier.”

Amid the rapid development and evolution of all forms of entertainment in Saudi Arabia in recent years, “Zarqa Al-Yamama” represents a significant step forward for opera in the Kingdom, and Al-Bahiti serves as a shining example of the growing opportunities as the art form continues to evolve and grow.

“Zarqa Al-Yamama” will run from April 25 until May 4, with 10 performances scheduled.


3rd European Film Festival set to launch in Saudi

3rd European Film Festival set to launch in Saudi
Updated 7 sec ago
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3rd European Film Festival set to launch in Saudi

3rd European Film Festival set to launch in Saudi
  • VOX Cinemas will host 21 European films over the one-week event
  • The line-up features movies that have won awards including Oscars and the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival

RIYADH: The third European Film Festival begins next week, taking place in both Riyadh and Jeddah for the first time.
The event, which will run from May 29 to June 6, is being launched by the European Union Delegation to the Kingdom in conjunction with the embassies of EU member states and Arabia Pictures.
It will be hosted at VOX Cinemas Century Corner in Riyadh and the newly opened VOX Cinemas Jeddah Park in Jeddah.
This year the festival is bigger than ever, with 21 European films from countries including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
The line-up features movies that have won awards including Oscars and the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival.
EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Christophe Farnaud said: “I am glad that the European Film Festival has become a landmark event on the Kingdom’s cultural calendar. The festival has been expanding year by year and this time around we are not only showcasing more movies, but also bringing the festival to Jeddah. I hope that this will allow even more Saudi film enthusiasts to attend the festival’s many film screenings and side events.”
Ahmed Teama, CEO of Arabia Pictures, expressed his pleasure at extending the collaboration with the EU Delegation to Saudi Arabia for a third consecutive year.
He lauded the festival as one of the most significant cinematic events in the Kingdom, highlighting its unique appeal to a devoted audience of international cinema enthusiasts.
Aimed at facilitating cultural exchange and promoting European cinema, the festival will also foster contacts between European and Saudi filmmakers.
Among the guests will be Oscar-winning Austrian film director Stefan Ruzowitzky, who will give a special masterclass.
Also attending will be director Kyriakos Tofaridis and screenwriter/director Mijke de Jong as well as Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney, from Cyprus, the Netherlands and Ireland respectively, who will meet the audiences and run an open conversation with filmmakers and film enthusiasts.
All side-events are free of charge and will take place at VOX Cinemas Century Corner in Riyadh.
Cinema enthusiast Meshal Al-Mutairi told Arab News: “I have seen movies during previous EU film fests and like their movie selection.”
For more information about the festival program or to buy tickets, visit https://arabiapictures.sa/EuroFest or https://ksa.voxcinemas.com


Saudi foreign minister holds talks with Austrian, Ethiopian counterparts

Saudi foreign minister holds talks with Austrian, Ethiopian counterparts
Updated 3 min 15 sec ago
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Saudi foreign minister holds talks with Austrian, Ethiopian counterparts

Saudi foreign minister holds talks with Austrian, Ethiopian counterparts

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday received his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Riyadh, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.

At the beginning of the meeting, Prince Faisal welcomed Schallenberg and his accompanying delegation, wishing them a pleasant stay.

The two sides reviewed ties between the Kingdom and Austria, and ways to support and enhance relations, in addition to exchanging views on regional and international issues.

Prince Faisal also received the Ethiopian Foreign Minister Taye Atskeselassie for talks on developing bilateral ties and joint cooperation, the foreign ministry said.


Saudi dates, coffee showcased at World Water Forum

The Saudi pavilion at the World Water Forum in Indonesia has attracted significant attention from visitors. (SPA)
The Saudi pavilion at the World Water Forum in Indonesia has attracted significant attention from visitors. (SPA)
Updated 7 min 59 sec ago
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Saudi dates, coffee showcased at World Water Forum

The Saudi pavilion at the World Water Forum in Indonesia has attracted significant attention from visitors. (SPA)
  • During the event, held from May 18 to May 25,  Saudi coffee, considered a symbol of hospitality, has added a distinctive cultural touch to the pavilion

RIYADH: The Saudi pavilion at the World Water Forum in Indonesia has attracted significant attention from visitors. Saudi hospitality, exemplified by the quality and variety of dates and coffee on offer, has proved a major draw.

During the event, held from May 18 to May 25,  Saudi coffee, considered a symbol of hospitality, has added a distinctive cultural touch to the pavilion.

The Kingdom’s diverse and flavorful dates has impressed attendees, enhancing the positive image of Saudi agricultural products on the international stage.

This participation not only elevates the profile of Saudi products globally but also opens doors for commercial cooperation and cultural exchange.

The quality of dates and coffee embodies elements of Saudi national identity and reflects the Kingdom’s commitment to supplying premium products to the international markets.

The Kingdom ranks among the top 10 coffee-consuming nations globally.


Digital Cooperation Organization secretary-general holds meetings in Cairo

Deemah Al-Yahya, secretary-general of the DCO, holds talks with Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology.
Deemah Al-Yahya, secretary-general of the DCO, holds talks with Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology.
Updated 58 min 36 sec ago
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Digital Cooperation Organization secretary-general holds meetings in Cairo

Deemah Al-Yahya, secretary-general of the DCO, holds talks with Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology.
  • Al-Yahya affirmed to Talaat that there were several opportunities for cooperation between DCO and Egypt in light of the latter’s digital strategy

RIYADH: Deemah Al-Yahya, secretary-general of the Digital Cooperation Organization, held talks with Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Amr Talaat, and the Arab League’s Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit during her visit to Cairo.

Al-Yahya affirmed to Talaat that there were several opportunities for cooperation between the organization and Egypt in light of the latter’s digital strategy.

She added that this was the result of Egypt’s economic components and strategic goals aligning with the organization’s aims.

Deemah Al-Yahya, secretary-general of the DCO, stands with the Arab League’s Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit during her visit to Cairo. (SPA)

Al-Yahya added that the organization was able to provide opportunities that could be leveraged to achieve digital economic growth and prosperity.

She also praised the Digital Egypt Pioneers Initiative, which drives digital transformation by developing skills and innovation while supporting young talents in business.

Al-Yahya affirmed that the organization seeks to enhance cooperation with different sectors in Egypt to boost cooperation in the infrastructure of information technology and communications, as well as innovation ecosystems, through partnerships between private and public sectors.


Saudi Arabia, Jordan to airdrop aid to Palestinians

KSrelief has delivered equipment, tools to Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organization that will be sent to support Palestinians.
KSrelief has delivered equipment, tools to Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organization that will be sent to support Palestinians.
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia, Jordan to airdrop aid to Palestinians

KSrelief has delivered equipment, tools to Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organization that will be sent to support Palestinians.
  • Jordan’s Armed Forces will airdrop the 30 tonnes of supplies into the area that remains under siege by Israel
  • This effort is a part of Saudi Arabia’s campaign to help the Palestinian people

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s aid agency KSrelief has delivered equipment and tools to the Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organization that will be sent to support Palestinians in Gaza.

Jordan’s Armed Forces will airdrop the 30 tonnes of supplies into the area that remains under siege by Israel.

This effort is a part of Saudi Arabia’s campaign to help the Palestinian people.

The Kingdom remains committed to delivering humanitarian aid into Gaza through various means, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.