Forget steel and glass: Saudi Arabia’s first opera house to be traditionally built

Saudi Arabia is rapidly emerging as the world's most attractive and fastest-growing tourist destination...

With attractions like the world's first gaming and esports district, the largest Six Flags theme park in the world, an entertainment center nestled among picturesque mountains, and a collection of luxury hotels, it redefines the perfect holiday experience. Now, the Kingdom is ready to unveil its first Opera House.

The Diriyah Company, in collaboration with the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, has opened the doors to the first national Opera in the Diriyah district, a site declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This ambitious project, spanning 45,000 square meters, will come to life according to the visionary plans of the architectural firm Snøhetta. The design concept emphasizes the importance of preserving the natural beauty of the surroundings while drawing inspiration from traditional Najdi architecture.

The blend of mud ambiance, rich heritage, and modern innovations promises to create a unique cultural center. Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, co-founder of Snøhetta, explains: "This project aims to connect the area's rich history with contemporary culture, highlighting the importance and integrity of art in building future communities. The concept is based on the idea that the earth from riverbeds, which cracks when exposed to the hot sun, shaped by wind and rain, then finds a new form in separate forms. This idea formed a cluster of buildings that appear to grow out of the ground with open passages through them."

The Royal Diriyah Opera will feature a 2,000-seat stage and a contemporary art museum, offering a unique blend of tradition and modernity. Mr. Khan, a spokesperson, stated: "What you can expect to see is something that truly belongs to this place, you can't take it out or replicate it elsewhere; it belongs to Diriyah. It is very much inspired by the Wadi and Najdi values - the same basic materials of mud, stone, and palm used throughout history in this region."

The Opera will contain four spaces: a world-renowned opera stage with 2,000 seats, an adaptable theater with movable seats, an experimental space, and a multipurpose hall with an open terrace that can accommodate 450 people. What sets this opera apart is its fourth space on the very top - an open-air amphitheater that provides a unique cultural experience.

Jasper Hope, an advisor to the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, said: "It will be a destination. It will be a place where talents from across the kingdom can be nurtured, where they can be invested in, and where they can be celebrated. And it will be a place where the best from the rest of the world can come to perform for new audiences here in Riyadh. If this were an opera production, we would be somewhere in the overture phase, before the first act. There's a long way to go, but it's a very exciting production to be part of."

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