Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture and Information Awwad Al-Awwad recently inaugurated on the first concert of the Egyptian Opera held at the King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh.
Egyptian Minister of Culture Dr. Inas Abdel-Dayem and several other dignitaries attended Wednesday’s gala event organized by the General Entertainment Authority.
Awwad highlighted the development in Saudi Arabia’s cultural and artistic sector as well as the initiatives to showcase the bright aspects of the Kingdom’s rich cultural heritage.
Awwad and the guests also toured a photograph exhibition that documented the history of the Egyptian opera for nearly one and a half centuries since the opening of Cairo’s Opera House in 1869 and the most important performances that were presented on its stage until its burning in 1971.
They also watched musical performances by the Egyptian expatriate community based in Riyadh.
The Egyptian Opera Band presented a great musical performance, the first of its kind in Riyadh. As many as 45 musicians took part in the concert, which will conclude on Thursday.
The opera played notes for famous Egyptian singers including Abdul Wahab, Umm Kulthum, Abdul Halim Hafiz, Shadia, Najat Al-Saghira and others.
Saudis’ long appreciation of Umm Kulthum
But the most enthusiasm that brought the Saudi crowd back to the golden age of music was when Umm Kulthum’s music began to play on stage.
In October 2017, Saudi Cultural Channel Al-Thakafiyah TV began airing music concerts, most prominent of which were recording of live music concerts of renowned Egyptian legend Umm Kulthum for the first time in 30 years.
Umm Kulthum, whose career spanned almost 50 years, is dubbed “the Arab diva of the 20th century,” the “lady of Arab singing” and “the star of the East.”
With some 300 songs under her belt - varying in length from 45 to 90 minutes - Umm Kalthoum’s songs articulated the plight of Arab peoples. “She represented an important period in the Arab world’s pop culture,” Shinnawy said.
Born in 1910 to an imam at a village mosque, Umm Kalthoum shared a cultural background with the majority of Egyptians. She died in 1975, but her songs are played to this day.
Director general of the Egyptian Opera House Mohamed Mounir told reporters that the artistic exhibition accompanying the Egyptian Opera nights in Riyadh is the first exhibition to be held outside Egypt.
It includes rare pictures that tell the history of the Egyptian Opera House 155 years ago. The Opera House to the Modern Opera House, which opened in 1988, pointing out that this exhibition contains pictures of the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, when he saw a theater performance in the Egyptian Opera House.
Saudi female singers
Until the end of 1979, the Saudi television aired songs for the Star of the East Umm Kulthoum and other singers like Fayza Ahmad, Samira Toufic, Najat al-Saghira and Farid al-Atrach. It also aired Samira Saeed’s songs when she first started singing during concerts in the 1970’s and when she appeared wearing the Moroccan outfit.
This is in addition to the airing of songs for Saudi folk bands and Saudi female singers like Toha and Ibtisam Lutfi, whom Ahmad Rami called the Star of the Peninsula, and Shadia of the Arabs and whom Riad Al-Sunbati composed songs for.
While checking on sources of the musical heritage in Hejaz, we realized there were many popular women who greatly influenced singing, such as Toha and late singer Saleha Hamdya. Some of these female singers even played music instruments, for example Fatima and Aisha Zaidieh were well-known for playing instruments such as the oud and violin.
There were also Saffiya Lobana, Karama Saleh Sultan, Amina Adnya, Saleha Hamdya, Fatima Hamdya, Zeinab Hendaya, Zeinab Rawshna, Fatima Oteibia, Hajya and Fatima Ibrahim Bashit who was the most famous. Shawq, Qamr al-Taheriya and Fatima Najidya are some of Jeddah’s late female singers.