Reading: Desert Opera

Map of the region
Map of the region

Saudi Arabia will soon have its very first national orchestra and opera. France will help Saudi to set up the musical groups. The two countries signed a series of agreements on Monday to boost cultural ties, and cooperation through the arts. France’s Culture Minister said: “Today, an agreement was signed with the Paris Opera to help Saudi Arabia set up a national orchestra and an opera.” The world-famous Paris Opera will help Saudi Arabia produce its own classical music performances and operas. Plans are already under way for the country’s first opera house to be built in the kingdom’s second largest city, Jeddah. Saudi Arabia will invest $64 billion in developing its entertainment industry over the next decade

The agreement is part of a plan created by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, called Vision 2030. He wants to modernise many areas of Saudi life. There were other projects included in the cultural agreements between France and Saudi Arabia. French archaeologists will work on developing Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ula region in the northwest of the country. The area is rich in ancient archaeological sites. French experts will help to preserve the area. Another key part of the agreement is the translation of literature. France’s Culture Minister stressed, “the importance of translating books in both directions, from Arabic into French and French into Arabic”.


Comprehension Questions

  1. What will France help set up, besides the opera?
  2. What kind of ties do the two countries want to boost?
  3. What is the name of the opera company that will help Saudi Arabia?
  4. Where will Saudi’s first opera house be built?
  5. How much will Saudi spend on its entertainment industry?
  6. What is the name of the plan created by the Saudi Crown Prince?
  7. Where in Saudi Arabia is the Al-Ula region?
  8. What is the Al-Ula region rich in?
  9. What is another key part of the agreement between Saudi and France?
  10. In what direction will the translation of books happen?


Vocabulary Activity:

Try to recall how these words were used in the text:

  • plan
  • life
  • region
  • rich
  • key
  • both
  • soon
  • boost
  • arts
  • own
  • already
  • decade


Discussion Questions

  1. What images are in your mind when you hear the word ‘opera’?
  2. What do you think of opera?
  3. Why do so many people prefer pop music to classical music?
  4. Why didn’t Saudi Arabia have an opera house before?
  5. What arts are important in your country?
  6. What do you know about the culture of Saudi Arabia?
  7. Why is Saudi investing so much money in entertainment?
  8. Which is better, classical music or opera?
  9. What kind of performance art do you like best?
  10. What do you think of when you hear the word ‘orchestra’?
  11. What do you think about what you read?
  12. How important is classical music?
  13. Is classical music better than rock music?
  14. How important are the arts?
  15. What would you do to modernize your country?
  16. What could you do on a holiday in Saudi Arabia?
  17. What is the benefit of translating French and Arabic books?
  18. What questions would you like to ask the culture ministers?

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