Cirque du Soleil is strengthening its ties with Saudi Arabia. The entertainment group has just signed an agreement with Riyadh.
Updated yesterday at 2:28 p.m.
“Under this agreement, a large number of shows […] may be presented within the kingdom,” reads a statement released by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture on Friday. As examples, the document talks about shows The Illusionist, Now You See Me, Paw Patrol Live – Race to the Rescue, Trolls Live ! and Blue Man Group World Tour.
The partnership also calls for the two parties to develop a plan to establish a regional training academy and a local Cirque du Soleil office, according to the statement.
“This deal comes on the heels of the winds of reform and social change announced in this country, and the announcement of business deals to build a whole new entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia. It will make it possible to define the shows that could eventually be presented there and opens the door to other projects that could be developed,” said Caroline Couillard, spokesperson for Cirque du Soleil, in an email sent to The Press.
When these plans are more specific, we will make an official announcement – as we usually do with our partners. At this time, there are no firm plans to announce.
Caroline Couillard, Cirque du Soleil spokesperson
This agreement was signed by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Culture of Saudi Arabia, and Gabriel de Alba, co-president of the Cirque du Soleil group, during a meeting in New York.
This is not the first time the entertainment group has performed in Saudi Arabia. Since 2018, Cirque du Soleil has presented six shows there, including Messi10, inspired by the life of soccer legend Lionel Messi, last November.
In 2018, the presentation of Cirque du Soleil shows in this country, however, angered some of its artists who hoped that the company would cancel shows in the wake of international condemnation of the regime following the murder of the dissident Saudi journalist. Jamal Khashoggi and a diplomatic dispute between Canada and Saudi Arabia.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has put a lot of energy into developing the arts and entertainment sector, including creating the Ministry of Culture in 2018.
Recall that not so long ago concerts were banned in this country. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is behind these changes as he tries to modernize society to attract more foreign capital and create jobs for the younger generation.
However, for human rights groups, these cultural events are only meant to distract from the Saudi kingdom’s human rights record.
Last fall, a campaign had also been launched to dissuade Justin Bieber from giving a show there. Without success. The Canadian singer took the stage in Jeddah on December 5th.
With The Canadian Press and The Associated Press