Zarqa Al Yamamah opera
"Zarqa Al Yamamah" is the first and largest Saudi opera in the Arab region. Image Credit: SPA

Cairo: Saudi Arabia’s first opera show started premiering in Riyadh where it will stage 10 performances over eight days.

“Zarqa Al Yamama”, also considered the largest Arabic opera production, started its domestic showings at the King Fahd Cultural Centre in Riyadh on Thursday and runs through May 4, according to the Saudi news agency SPA.

Last February, the opera had its international premiere in London.

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 work marks the commission’s interest in presenting shows designed to elevate the Saudi theatre at the national and international levels, SPA said.

The opera also serves as a platform to showcase Saudi talented artists and give them the chance to work alongside international performers.

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

Award-winning Saudi poet Saleh Zamanan wrote the text inspired by the historical tale. Three of the principal roles in the opera are performed by Saudi artists Khayran Al Zahrani, Sawsan Albahiti, and Reemaz Oqbi.

World-famous mezzo soprano Dame Sarah Connolly leads the vocal cast in the title role of Zarqa Al Yamama. The production features staging and special effects by stage director Daniele Finzi Pasca.

The opera’s orchestration is performed by Dresdner Sinfoniker led by prominent conductor Pablo González, along with vocal accompaniments by the Czech Philharmonic Choir.

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.