The Theatre and Performing Arts announces Zarqa Al Yamama – the first grand opera to be produced by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the world’s largest grand opera in Arabic performed by international and locally trained artists.
This ground-breaking production will debut in April 2024 in Riyadh, until the beginning of May 2024.
Based on an ancient tale from pre-Islamic Arabia, Zarqa Al Yamama tells the story of a legendary woman, born of the Geddes tribe and blessed with the gift of foresight. Foretelling the approach of a rival army that threatens to destroy her people, the story follows the eponymous heroine as she tries to warn her leader and his advisors of the imminent danger.
The original score, written and composed by Lee Bradshaw, along with the libretto by Saudi writer and poet Saleh Zamanan, will feature the dramatic narrative through a spectacular state-of-the-art production filled with sweeping orchestral and choral performances, delicate moments of beauty, and stunning vocals.
The world-acclaimed mezzo soprano Dame Sarah Connolly will lead the principle vocal cast in the title role of Zarqa Al Yamama. Three of the main roles will be performed by the Saudi artists Khayran Al Zahrani, Sawsan Albahiti and Reemaz Oqbi, representing the incredible development of the Kingdom’s national music programme. The talented cast also includes the internationally renowned artists Clive Bayley, Amelia Wawrzon, Serena Farnocchia, Paride Cataldo and George von Bergen.
The beautiful orchestrations will be performed by Dresdner Sinfoniker featuring vocal accompaniments by the Czech Philharmonic Choir, will also include mesmerising staging and special effects devised by stage director Daniele Finzi Pasca.
Sultan Al-Bazie, CEO of the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, asserts that opera is instrumental in reaching new audiences and exposing the community to diverse art and culture. “Staging Zarqa Al Yamama presents a landmark moment in the Kingdom’s cultural journey. This moment will inspire a new generation of Saudi artists and showcase Saudi Arabia’s culture to a global audience.”
Zamanan said Zarqa Al Yamama’s story, spirit, and language is rooted in the history of the Arabian Peninsula. “I am very proud to write this opera, as it introduces a new artistic and aesthetic perspective in the Kingdom and the broader region,” he said. “Zarqa Al Yamama embodies a bloody and tearful tragedy depicting ancient history, and at the same time it symbolizes the sorrows of Arabs in today’s world. However, the production is not devoid of hope, and offers the promise of a bright and happy tomorrow.”