France to help Saudi Arabia set up orchestra, opera

France is to help Saudi Arabia set up a national orchestra and opera, a further sign of major cultural changes under way in the conservative Gulf kingdom, AFP reported Monday (April 9th).

"Today an agreement was signed with the Paris Opera to help Saudi Arabia set up a national orchestra and an opera," French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen said after talks with her Saudi counterpart Awwad Alawwad.

Saudi Arabia also will make its first official appearance at France's Cannes film festival this year, submitting a selection of short films when the competition opens next month, the Saudi culture minister said Monday.

"We are very happy... that there will be an official participation at the Cannes festival, for the first time," Alawwad said after talks with Nyssen, part of an official two-day visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to France.

Prince Mohammed dined with President Emmanuel Macron at Paris's historic Louvre museum on Sunday night after flying in on his first trip to France as the heir to the Saudi throne.

The 32-year-old prince, who spearheads the kingdom's armed forces, is also set to meet French Defence Minister Florence Parly.

The prince's trip to France follows a tour of the US, Britain and Egypt.

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