Saudi Arabia is seeking French expertise to set up a national opera and orchestra under an agreement signed on April 9 that underlined the modernising agenda of the kingdom’s crown prince as he began his official trip to Paris.
“The deal will see the Paris opera company help the ultra-conservative Islamic nation produce its own classical music and shows, a further sign of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s desire to change the image of his homeland,” an AFP report said.
Prince Mohammed, known widely by his initials MBS, has already announced the lifting of a ban on women driving, the re-opening of cinemas for the first time in over three decades and new mixed-gender concerts despite opposition from religious hardliners.
The kingdom also revealed that it would enter short films at the Cannes cinema festival for the first time and send an official delegation to the celebration of often edgy and subversive silver-screen art on the Riviera this May.
The announcement about the Cannes film festival came after Prince Mohammed dined at media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s house last week in the US along with studio bosses from Hollywood and famed American actors including Morgan Freeman.
“With a rich tradition of storytelling, Saudi Arabia is embarking on the development of a sustainable and dynamic (film) industry,” Culture Minister Awwad Alawwad said in a statement sent to AFP.