Saudi Arabia is in talks to partner with Milan’s famous La Scala opera house, in a deal the kingdom hopes will be as successful as Abu Dhabi’s link up with France’s Louvre museum, according to media reports.
“I invited him [Prince Badr, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture] to the opening night of La Scala's 2018-19 season on December 7, and before the show, we spoke for two and a half hours with the directors of the Scala Academy,” Alexander Pereira, the Austrian chief executive and artistic director of La Scala, said in an interview with the La Stampa Italian newspaper.
“The prince explained that his country is interested in a partnership with La Scala based on the model the Louvre has with Abu Dhabi. In November, he had also met Minister Bonisoli [Italy’s Minister of Culture] in Petersburg, and he had also spoken with him. I went to Arabia in January. From there our project was born”.
Pereira said the potential partnership was a “great opportunity” and would see Saudi Arabia directly invest €3 million ($3.39 million) a year for five years in La Scala and spend €7 million developing a La Scala-managed music and dance conservatory in the Saudi capital Riyadh. In return, Saudi Arabia’s culture minister could also land a seat on La Scala’s board.
“Such economic opportunities don’t come by every day,” Pereira said, adding that other European countries were also hoping to partner with Saudi Arabia for similar cultural deals. “I know for instance that the French are very interested and not at all pleased that the Saudis have chosen La Scala. Especially since we plan to go on tour in the cultural centre that they have built.”
Under its Vision 2030 plan, Saudi Arabia is aiming to diversify its economy away from petrochemicals. Sports and entertainment in Saudi Arabia - from new cinemas to major international sporting events, like Formula E and European Tour golf – are attracting billions of dollars in investment.
Investment in Saudi’s entertainment infrastructure over the next decade is expected to be $64 billion, official figures show. It is estimated that it will also generate 224,000 new jobs by 2030. Around 500 entertainment-related companies have set up in the kingdom in the last year.
La Scala, which is officially known as Teatro alla Scala, has been a focal point of the Milanese cultural scene since it opened in 1778.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened was inaugurated in November 2017 by French President Emmanuel Macron and is part of a thirty-year agreement between the city of Abu Dhabi and the French government.