As part of the launch of the preopening program of Villa Hegra, artists from around the world, trained at the Académie de l’Opéra national de Paris, performed for the first time in AlUla, in the Northwest of Saudi Arabia. The unique event was made possible by the collaboration of the two cultural institutions.
Combining opera and ballet, the performance was thought as a dialogue between artists from all backgrounds, and saw the participation of Étoile dancer Alice Renavand, Soprano Marianne Croux, mezzo-soprano Farrah El Dibany, Tenor Yu Shao, Baritone Vladimir Kapshuk, and Pianist Benjamin Laurent, joined by the singer Sawsan Albahiti, the first Saudi Soprano.
An exceptional evening of lyrical and choreographic art in AlUla
On 17 January, for one evening, the performance hall of Maraya, in AlUla – the world’s largest mirrored building – took on the appearance of the Palais Garnier, resonating with masterpieces of lyrical heritage.
Celebrating artistic creation and dialogue between cultures, the evening offered some of the most beautiful pages of the lyrical repertoire to the Saudi and international audience who attended the performance in the heart of the desert canyon of the Ashar Valley.
In the first part of the concert, the audience heard the great arias from operas such as Jules Massenet’s “Manon” or Camille Saint-Saëns’s “Samson et Dalila”, as well as the beautiful duet from Georges Bizet’s “Les Pêcheurs de perles”.
In the second part, the show continued with an original choreographic creation by Étoile dancer Alice Renavand on Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Sonate au Clair de Lune”, interpreted on the piano by Benjamin Laurent. The last part highlighted arias from the world’s most famous and performed opera, Georges Bizet’s “Carmen”.
The evening concluded with the famous Barcarolle from Jacques Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann”, performed in chorus by all the artists.
To immerse the audience in the atmosphere of the Opéra, an exhibition of twelve costumes, created by the workshops of the Opéra national de Paris took place in the Maraya lobby. Selected and staged by the Opéra’s Costume Department, the costumes from major classical ballets – such as Rudolf Nureyev’s “La Belle au bois dormant” designed by Franca Squarciapino, or Balanchine’s “Joyaux” designed by Christian Lacroix – engaged in a dialogue with the impressive opera costumes, from Marc-André Dalbavie’s “Le Soulier de satin” designed by Raoul Fernandez, and Mozart’s “La Clémence de Titus” designed by John McFarlane.
The Opéra national de Paris and Villa Hegra, committed to cultural exchange and dialogue
The visit of artists from the Opéra national de Paris to AlUla marks a significant first step in a long-term partnership between the prestigious French institution and Villa Hegra, with the aim of fostering creation through artistic and cultural dialogue.
Thus, an exchange between the French artists of the Opéra national de Paris and Saudi student artists, training at the Music Hub in AlUla, was set up after the performance, taking the form of an introduction to music, singing, and dance, followed by a presentation of the history and activities of the Opéra national de Paris – enriched by inspiring testimonials from the guest artists.
According to Fériel Fodil, General Director of Villa Hegra : “At Villa Hegra, we are committed to showcasing the performing arts and highlighting the creative energy of French, Saudi, and international talents. Our partnership represents a unique opportunity to offer to a diverse audience a culture that is experienced in an exceptional setting and to contribute significantly to intercultural dialogue between Saudi Arabia and France, and more broadly between the Arab world and Europe.”
Alexander Neef, General Director of the Opéra national de Paris stated: “We are very proud to put our values, expertise, and commitment to artistic excellence at the service of intercultural dialogue and exchange between artists from all backgrounds. This new partnership confirms the openness of the Opéra national de Paris to the world and its desire to promote French creation internationally.”
Myriam Mazouzi, Director of the Académie de l’Opéra national de Paris added: “Transmission is a dialogue between generations that builds the future. That’s what the partnership between Villa Hegra and the Opéra national de Paris is all about.”