Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah speaks during the opera’s launch in London.
Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah speaks during the opera’s launch in London. Image Credit: X@MOCPerformArt

Cairo: Saudi Arabia’s first ever opera show premiered this week in the British capital, marking its international launch.

“Zarqa Al Yamama”, also considered the largest Arabic opera production, was staged at the Goldsmith Hall in London in the presence of Saudi officials including Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah, who cited "boundless" support from the Saudi leaders to the culture sector in the kingdom.

“This support has helped give an unprecedented impetus to different sectors in the kingdom,” he said in an address at the launch ceremony.

Inspired by a pre-Islamic legend, “Zarqa Al Yamama” is the first production by the Saudi Theatre and Performing Arts Commission.

It tells the tale of a strong-willed Arabian woman gifted with a rare prescience and long-distance vision.

The opera is scheduled to be performed in Riyadh in mid-April and will have local and international performances.

It features Saudi and foreign performers and uniquely blends Arabic and Western musical elements.

Work on the opera started around two years ago, according to the commission’s CEO Sultan Al Bazai.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to diversify its oil-reliant economy and attract more foreign visitors.

As part of an ambitious development scheme, dubbed Saudi Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has recently sought to boost its entertainment industry, staging a string of concerts, cinema, theatrical shows and competitions that have drawn large audiences from inside and outside the kingdom.

In May 2016, the kingdom created the General Entertainment Authority, a state agency that has since sponsored a slew of stellar concerts, stage shows and festivals. In April 2018, Saudi Arabia reopened cinemas for the first time in nearly four decades as part of dramatic changes in the kingdom.