Diriyah Company Announces Saudi Arabia’s First Opera House

By David Salazar

The Diriyah Company has announced that it will work with the Royal Commision for Riyadh City to create the Royal Diriyah Opera House.

This marks the first time that Saudi Arabia has an opera house. It will be located near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of At Turaif.

“A testament to the Kingdom’s commitment to celebrating its rich culture and heritage, the Royal Diriyah Opera House will be a key element of the second phase of the Diriyah masterplan. Encompassing 45,000 square meters, the opera house will be a beacon of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, showcasing Diriyah as a global hub of culture and creativity,” said a statement issued by the company.

The building will be designed by Snøhetta in Diriyah.

“Through thoughtful integration of tradition and contemporary aesthetics, we aim to create a timeless cultural symbol that resonates globally,” said Kjetil Thorsen, the co-founder and architect of Snøhetta. “We have a deep appreciation and respect for Najdi architecture, which carries the soul of Saudi heritage. By weaving the intricate tapestry of Najdi motifs into a contemporary architectural narrative, we endeavor to craft a space that narrates the story of Diriyah’s rich history while embracing the boundless possibilities of Saudi Arabia’s future.”

The Royal Diriyah Opera House is poised to become the next major operatic center of the Middle East alongside the Dubai Opera and Royal Opera House Muscat.

“The announcement of the Royal Diriyah Opera House embodies our aspirations for Riyadh to be a city at the forefront of global cultural and architectural innovation. As the capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh’s selection as the host city for Expo 2030 is a testament to our dynamic progress and vision for the future,” said Ibrahim Al-Sultan, Minister of State, Member of the Council of Ministers, and CEO of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City. “The Royal Diriyah Opera House will be a cornerstone in this journey, showcasing the unique blend of our rich heritage and modern innovation. This iconic structure symbolizes our commitment to creating a vibrant cultural hub that resonates with the spirit of Riyadh and positions the city as a leading destination for cultural and architectural excellence on the international stage.”

Saudi Arabia recently won the rights to 2030 FIFA World Cup as it aims to position itself as a major tourist attraction. However, per Amnesty International’s 2022 report of Saudi Arabia, the country’s authorities have targeted individuals “for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association.” There are also issues with the judicial system, unfair trials, and the widespread use of the death penalty; arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders; forced evictions of thousands of residents; abuse of migrant workers; and the Personal Status Law, which further limits women’s rights with regards to guardianship of children.