Zarqa Al Yamama unfolds the compelling narrative of a woman from the Geddes tribe blessed with the gift of foresight. Image Credit: SPA

Dubai: Saudi Arabia’s Theatre and Performing Arts Commission has announced the production of ‘Zarqa Al Yamama’ – the first grand opera ever produced in the Kingdom and the largest Arabic grand opera ever staged.

The historic event is set to take place in Riyadh, commencing in April and running through early May.

Zarqa Al Yamama, inspired by a pre-Islamic Arabian legend, unfolds the compelling narrative of a woman from the Geddes tribe blessed with the gift of foresight.

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The opera chronicles her relentless efforts to warn her leader of an imminent enemy attack, showcasing her unwavering determination and prescience in the face of scepticism.

Featuring an original score by Lee Bradshaw and a libretto penned by Saudi writer and poet Saleh Zamanan, the opera promises a rich, multi-dimensional experience through its fusion of orchestral and choral music, intricate storytelling, and captivating vocal performances.

Title role

Leading the cast is Dame Sarah Connolly, an internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano, in the title role.

Additionally, the opera showcases Saudi talent, with pivotal roles portrayed by Khayran Al Zahrani, Sawsan Albahiti, and Reemaz Oqbi, reflecting the remarkable progress of Saudi Arabia’s national music programme.

Complementing the ensemble are renowned international artists, including Clive Bayley, Amelia Wawrzon, Serena Farnocchia, Paride Cataldo and George von Bergen.

Musical accompaniment will be provided by the Dresdner Sinfoniker, with choral support from the Czech Philharmonic Choir.

The opera’s captivating staging and special effects will be masterfully directed by the celebrated Daniele Finzi Pasca.

Optimism for the future

Sultan Al Bazie, CEO of the Theatre and Performing Arts Commission, highlighted the opera’s pivotal role in diversifying cultural exposure and reaching new audiences.

He sees Zarqa Al Yamama as a transformative moment in Saudi Arabia’s cultural journey, one that will inspire local artists and showcase Saudi culture on the global stage.

Librettist Saleh Zamanan expressed immense pride in the project, emphasizing its significance in introducing a new artistic perspective in the Kingdom and the broader region.

He described Zarqa Al Yamama as a fusion of historical tragedy and contemporary Arab struggles, infused with a message of hope and optimism for the future.