Riyadh, The Gulf Observer: The Saudi Theater and Performing Arts Commission announced on Friday the first grand opera to be produced by the Kingdom — the world’s largest grand Arabic opera — which is to be performed by international stars and locally trained talents.
The groundbreaking production, called “Zarqa Al-Yamama,” will debut in April in Riyadh and run until the beginning of May. It will be produced under the patronage of Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, who is also the chairman of the commission’s board of directors.
Based on an ancient tale from pre-Islamic Arabia, “Zarqa Al-Yamama” tells the story of a legendary woman, born of the Jadis 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 advisers of the imminent danger.
Sultan Al-Bazei, the commission’s CEO, said that opera had an effective role in reaching new audiences and introducing society to diverse art and culture, adding that the production represented a historic moment in the Kingdom’s cultural journey and will help inspire a new generation of Saudi artists while showcasing the the country’s culture to a global audience.
The original score, which was written and composed by Lee Bradshaw, and the libretto, by Saudi writer and poet Saleh Zamanan, feature in a spectacular state-of-the-art production filled with sweeping orchestral and choral performances, and stunning vocals.
World-acclaimed mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly will lead the principal vocal cast in the title role of the opera and will be accompanied by nine prominent Saudi musicians.
Three of the main roles will be performed by the Saudi artists Khayran Al-Zahrani, Sawsan Al-Bahiti, and Reemaz Oqbi, representing the impressive development of the Kingdom’s national music program.
The talented cast also includes the internationally renowned artists Clive Bayley, Amelia Wawrzon, Serena Farnocchia, Paride Cataldo, and George von Bergen.
The orchestrations will be performed by Dresdner Sinfoniker featuring vocal accompaniments by the Czech Philharmonic Choir, and the production includes staging and special effects devised by stage director Daniele Finzi Pasca.
Zamanan said the opera’s story, spirit, and language were rooted in the history of the Arabian Peninsula.
He said: “I am very proud to have written this opera as it introduces a new artistic and aesthetic perspective in the Kingdom and the broader region.
“‘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.”