Tickets are now on sale for Saudi Arabia’s first-ever Arabic Grand Opera

Inspired by a pre-Islamic Arabian legend, Zarqa Al Yamama debuts this April in Riyadh…

Love opera? Come April 2024, you can catch the first grand opera to be produced by Saudi Arabia and the world’s largest grand opera to be sung in Arabic.

Featuring locally trained talents and international performers, Zarqa Al Yamama will run from Thursday April 25 to Saturday May 4 at the newly refurbished King Fahad Cultural Centre in Riyadh. The tickets are priced at SAR100 for Category C, SAR250 for Category B, and SAR400 for Category A, and can be purchased here.

The plot

Based on an ancient tale from pre-Islamic Arabia, Zarqa Al Yamama tells the story of a legendary blue-eyed 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 opera promises to take audiences on a compelling journey through its fusion of orchestral and choral music, intricate storytelling, and captivating vocal performances.

A grand production

Zarqa Al Yamama

From left to right: Saleh Zamanan, Dame Sarah Connolly, Lee Bradshaw

The new opera is a truly worldwide collaboration. Zarqa Al Yamama features Australian composer Lee Bradshaw’s original score and a libretto by Saudi writer and poet Saleh Zamanan.

Headlining the work will be one of Britain’s finest opera singers, mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly, who’s playing the title role, with three of the other leading roles being performed by Saudi artists Khayran Al-Zahrani, Sawsan Al-Bahiti, and Reemaz Oqbi. Other principal cast members include bass singer Rafal Siwek, sopranos Serena Farnocchia and Amelia Wawrzon, Clive Bayley, Paride Cataldo and George von Bergen.

Zarqa Al Yamama-Sawsan Albahiti

Sawsan Al-Bahiti at the launch of Zarqa Al Yamama in London

Just like the rest of the opera, the music combines cultures, taking some harmonic tropes from Arabic music alongside Western classical music, including contemporary. The production has engaged the Dresdner Sinfoniker orchestra, led by Spaniard conductor Pablo González, with the Czech Philharmonic Choir. World-renowned Italian stage director Daniele Finzi Pasca, who has previously produced major events including Cirque du Soleil and two Winter Olympic ceremonies, has also devised the production’s stunning staging and special effects and promises some theatrical visuals to mesmerise the audience.

Zarqa Al Yamama, April 25 to May 4, King Fahad Cultural Centre, Riyadh. The price for the tickets start from SAR100 and can be purchased here

Images: Supplied