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    Puccini the envelope: Saudi Arabia to open its first opera house

    Saudi Arabia is to begin construction on its first ever opera house, according to the chairman of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA).
    Ahmed Al Khatib made the announcement Thursday at the unveiling of the authority’s entertainment calendar in the capital Riyadh. “Implementation has begun and we will continue until we achieve the highest standards in the world,” Al-Khatib said, adding that it plans to invest $64 billion in the entertainment sector in the next 10 years.  
    There have been a number of steps to liberalize Saudi culture in recent times. In December, it was announced the first movie theaters will open in 2018 – with cinemas having been banned since the 1980s. Announcing the move, Minister for Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad said he expected the theaters to open in March.
    The proposal to lift the ban has been condemned by powerful religious officials, who say that films can be “immoral, atheistic or rotten” and have the potential “to open doors to evil.”
    That ‘Don Giovanni,’ ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ or the ‘Barber of Seville’ could soon be soaring through the rafters of a new Riyadh opera house is down to Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ project, the plan to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil.

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