Operetta Drives Progress in the Middle East

Saudi Arabia women attend a rally to celebrate the 87th annual National Day of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 23, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

For the first time in Saudi Arabia, women were invited to attend a public performance.

This weekend the country is celebrating 87 years since its founding. The event includes various artists in concert and other performances.

The operetta was a telling of Saudi Arabia’s founding by Ibn Saud, son of King Salman. Crowds cheered at the pageant of camels, horses, fountains, pyrotechnics and a corps of 100 dancing swordsman and drummers. Adding to the momentous occasion was an unveiled woman and two dozen girls on stage. In a country where the Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam dominates the culture, this commingling of the sexes in a stadium is true progress.

25 year old Saudi woman, Sultana, with fellow girlfriends in tow, said “It is the first time I have come to the stadium and I feel like more of a Saudi citizen. Now I can go everywhere in my country.”

These sweeping changes are part of the two year old reform program, Vision 2030, which seeks to ease the confines of the lifestyle and promote economic diversity, beyond the oil industry, which the country is known most for.

As a testament to Saudi Arabia’s revolution, King Salman tweeted, “The kingdom will remain a bulwark for those who love benevolence, their religion and their country.”

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About the Author

James Monroe Števko
Born in Houston, James began studying music at an early age, but it wasn't until college that he first saw ballet. After pursuing music education, he decided instead to earn his BFA in Theatre from NIU while on scholarship. He was quickly offered a traineeship with Milwaukee Ballet where he performed in Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker. Since then, James has performed with Radio City Music, The Metropolitan Opera in Un Ballo in Maschera, as Enoch Jr. in Carousel with the Houston Grand Opera, the Muny in St. Louis in The King and I, 7 productions with The Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cats at the Paramount Theatre, and RPM Productions. He has also performed alongside Katy Perry at the Met gala. He also loves to travel and blogs about his adventures.

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