I am the only opera singer in Saudi Arabia
"Our own opera house is now under construction and a music academy as well, so it is really a great time for music and art to bloom in the country," said Sausan al-Bahiti.16 Desember 2019 10:05
Sausan al-Bahiti, the only opera singer in Saudi Arabia. (Sausan al-Bahiti for Albalad.co)
Last Tuesday was the hisrtric moment for Sausan al-Bahiti. As the only opera singer in Saudi Arabia, she was chosen to sing the national anthem in opera way. And she felt very proud and so happy.
The 31 year old woman who was born in Riyadh thanks to the social reforms was laucnhed by the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman three years ago. She believes these changes will be good for the development of music and art, include opera, in Saudi.
"Our own opera house is now under construction and a music academy as well, so it is really a great time for music and art to bloom in the country," said Sausan al-Bahiti in an exclusive interview with Faisal Assegaf from Albalad.co via WhatsApp today.
I saw you on Twitter that you sang Saudi national anthem in Makkah in front of mix audiences. Can you explain how it could happen?
I was invited by the head of the Chamber of Makkah to perform the anthem and open the event celebrating the launch of their new vision, and I was happy to accept it. The attendees were members of the chamber as well as members of the media and journalists who are all Saudi men and women showing support to the Chamber and their new vision.
Also among the attendees was Prince Bader bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the deputy prince of Makkah region, which was of course an honor of mine to perform in front of him.
When did that occasion happen?
Last Tuesday, 10 December.
Is that the first time Saudi female singer to sing in front of male and female attendees?
It's the first time for a Saudi opera singer to sing in front of Saudi men and women, but there are many other Saudi women who performed other kinds of music to a public mixed audience.
Why did they ask you as an opera singer to sing Saudi national anthem?
It was my idea to sing the national anthem in the opera way. I felt it is a great way to present this art to the Saudi public through something they have a strong connection to.
What about the response from the audiences?
It was very surprising to find such positive response and wonderful support to me as a Saudi women pioneering the field of opera singing in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). But of course like anything in life some people like it and some people simply dont have a taste for it so I found that too.
Do you think your performance was a part of big changes in Saudi society in the context of social, culture, and tradition which has happened since MBS launched Vision 2030?
It is definitely one of the highlights of the change happening in the society upon the launch of Vision 2030.
Do you agree with the changes in Saudi society that give more freedom for Saudi women?
Absolutely I do, the country is giving massive support to Saudi women and empowering them in all fields. I think now more than ever Saudi women have great opportunities to achieve and succeed in different aspects of her life. The Kingdom is making great efforts to make sure the Saudi woman has her major role in shaping the society and giving her the platform to shine that she deserves.
But otherwise, Saudi has arrested and detained female activists like Lujain al-Hazlul. What do you think about that?
I think anyone that goes against the rules and law of any country will be detained, and I don’t think rebelling is the right solution to change any situation let alone a country. Rules should be respected in my opinion and the individual should be wise about their actions. My prayers go out to Lujain Alhazlul I do not wish anyone any harm of any sort.
Based on your experiences, can you compare about your profession as an opera singer before and after social reform in Saudi? How Saudi society view you as a female singer?
Before Vision 2030 the idea of Saudi female opera singer was very far and alien to the society. Although now it is still considerably a new art to the culture but it is very much accepted and encouraged by everyone I meet. I am viewed as a pioneer and leading change in a wonderful field and I am very grateful for that.
Can you explain how did you learn and why are you interested in opera singer?
I was always in love with music and I play the guitar since I was 6 years old where I was self taught. When I was studying Advertising for my Bachelors degree in the American University of Sharjah, I took a choir singing course and the conductor, Professor John Perkins, heard the potential in my voice, and he instantly advised me to start training as an opera singer.
I was really surprised by it but at the same time excited to try something new and wonderful such as opera. Before that I never had opera on my mind but I was always fond of classical music. I then began to train with an opera singer and voice teacher in the university, Dr. Emily Good-Perkins, and had several performances there. That was in 2008.
What do you expect about opera singer in Saudi after social reform launched by the Crown Prince?
I think now more than ever opera has its chance to bloom in Saudi and for us to have our own touch and addition to this art. Our own opera house is now under construction and a music academy as well, so it is really a great time for music and art to bloom in the country.
Do you get support from your family since the first time you learned to be an opera singer?
Yes my family were very happy that I learned to sing opera and always proud, but they were always worried about me going into this field in the society before Vision 2030 but now they are very happy with it. And my biggest supporter is my husband.
How many opera singer in Saudi now?
Professionally I am the only one, there is one young Saudi man who is in training still.