In the early part of 2020, European operatic circles have been buzzing with reports of a new talent emerging from the Arabian Peninsula in the form of the strong and powerful voice of Saudi Arabia’s first internationally acclaimed soprano singer, 32 year old Sawsan Albahiti (right).
Although Albahiti has been singing for over a decade, performing Broadway pieces and classical arias, she has only recently come to global prominence.
Frequently described as being softly spoken, the power of Albahiti’s voice is immense, whether singing in English, French, Italian, German and Russian. Recently she brought an audience to its feet when at her operatic debut – singing alongside the renowned Italian Teatro alla Scala Academy Orchestra, led by Chief Conductor, Pietro Mianiti, performing in Riyadh – she received a standing ovation from the audience of more than 3000 people.
Albahiti also performed to rave reviews when she performed to an international audience at the Saudi Embassy in Berlin in September 2019. She has frequently moved audiences to tears performing opera classics, including Chopin’s In Mir Klingt Ein Lied , All I Ask of You from the hit musical Phantom of the Opera, Se tu Mami, by Alessandra Parisotti and the heartrending Time to Say Goodbye (Con Te Partiro) by Francesco Sartori), popularised by Andrea Bocelli.
Albahiti, who has said she is on a mission to bring opera to a wide audience in her Saudi homeland, explained: “I’m at peace and in pure joy singing opera. It takes me to a place beyond existence.” It is this feeling of immense happiness she hopes to bring to her countrymen and women in the Kingdom.
“When I started my professionally training in 2008, opera, as such, did not exist in Saudi Arabia and at the time I had no idea how I would continue with my life’s mission to sing professionally, following my return home from my studying abroad. But after the launch of Vision 2030 and the dawn of General Entertainment Authority, which was created to support local artists, it is all very different; we now have an amazing platform for creative expression,” she explained.
Albahiti’s extraordinary talent was first noticed by her university orchestra conductor, Professor John Perkins, over a decade ago. He told her, not only was her voice ideal for a soloist career but, he observed, her high cheekbones helped bring a special resonance to her voice, which served as natural means of amplification.
In line with her “purpose in life” to raise awareness of classical music and opera in Saudi Arabia, Albahiti founded The Soulful Voice Institute, the Kingdom’s first vocal training programme, in Jeddah in 2018.
“I enjoy the amazing positive effects it has on the individual; both to their voice and their state of mind,”Albahiti observed. “I want to help build and develop the confidence of potential opera singers. It gives me great happiness to help them expand their talents.”
About Sawsan Albahiti
Sawsan Albahiti was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. Self taught in playing the guitar, she discovered the world of music from the early age of 6. She developed her vocal skills with the songs she played from different genres. In 2008, during her study at The American University of Sharjah, her potential as an opera singer was discovered and she began training to become the first Saudi known opera singer in history.
With her long and diverse experience in singing, she became curious about vocal technique; especially during her training as an opera singer. Albahiti decided to gain expert knowledge and methods on training the singing voice for different genres to become a certified voice teacher in her country. She is the first Saudi voice teacher in the New York Vocal Coaching Centre (NYVC) Alumni group.