Saudi Arabia will employ French expertise to set up a national opera and orchestra, under an agreement signed on Monday during a visit to Paris by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The deal will see the Paris Opera company help the oil-rich kingdom produce its own classical music and shows, a further sign of Prince Mohammed’s desire to change the image of his homeland.
He has already announced the lifting of a ban on women driving, the re-opening of cinemas for the first time in over three decades and new mixed-gender concerts, despite opposition from religious hardliners.
I cannot think of a better partner for culture and art than France,” Saudi Culture Minister Awwad Alawwad said.
Prince Mohammed, 32, was hosted by President Emmanuel Macron for a three-hour dinner at Paris’s historic Louvre museum on Sunday night after flying in on his first trip to France as heir to the Saudi throne.
“The discussions were friendly, which allowed the two men to establish a personal relationship,” Macron’s office said.
They will now work on a “strategic document” involving a series of contracts to be signed by Macron during a visit to Saudi Arabia later this year, his office said, without further details.
Macron, 40, faces a diplomatic tightrope in talks with the prince as he seeks to bolster his ties with the world’s top oil exporter, while also managing relations with the kingdom’s arch-rival Iran.