Zarqa Al Yamama

Zarqa Al Yamama

Zarqa Al Yamama, a Grand Opera in Arabic. Premiere in April 2024. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Starring mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly as the eponymous heroine, Zarqa Al Yamama brings together a cast of international performers and local Saudi artists as part of a global production to create the world’s largest Grand Opera written and performed in the Arabic language.

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The story of Zarqa Al Yamama comes to life with Saudi opera stars performing alongside international talent. This production will premiere in Riyadh in April 2024 and run until early May 2024.

Zarqa Al Yamama

Based on an ancient tale from pre-Islamic Arabia, Zarqa Al Yamama tells the story of a legendary woman born to the Geddes tribe and blessed with the gift of foresight. Foreseeing the approach of a rival army that threatens to destroy her people, the story follows the heroine as she attempts to warn her leader and his advisors of the impending danger.

The original score, written and composed by Lee Bradshaw, and libretto by Saudi Arabian writer and poet Saleh Zamanan, will tell the dramatic story through a spectacular production filled with sweeping orchestral and choral performances, tender moments of beauty, and astounding vocals.

Zarqa Al Yamama
Lee Bradshaw, Composer of Zarqa Al Yamama

Mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly will lead the principal vocal cast in the title role of Zarqa Al Yamama. Three of the principal roles will be performed by Saudi artists Khayran Al Zahrani, Sawsan Albahiti and Reemaz Oqbi, representing the remarkable development of the Kingdom’s national music program. The talented cast also includes internationally renowned artists Clive Bayley, Amelia Wawrzon, Serena Farnocchia, Paride Cataldo and George von Bergen.

The beautiful orchestrations will be performed by the Dresdner Sinfoniker with vocal accompaniment by the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno and will also include staging and special effects designed by director Daniele Finzi Pasca.

Reaching new audiences

Sultan Al-Bazie, CEO of the Theatre and Performing Arts Commission, asserts that opera is instrumental in reaching new audiences and exposing the community to diverse arts and culture. “The staging of Zarqa Al Yamama represents a landmark moment in the Kingdom’s cultural journey. This moment will inspire a new generation of Saudi artists and showcase Saudi culture to a global audience.”

Zarqa Al Yamama
Amelia Wawrzon and Dame Sarah Connolly

Zamanan said Zarqa Al Yamama‘s story, spirit and language are rooted in the history of the Arabian Peninsula. “I am very proud to have written this opera, as it brings a new artistic and aesthetic perspective to the Kingdom and the wider region,” he said. “Zarqa Al Yamama embodies a bloody and tearful tragedy depicting ancient history. “.

Zarqa is set to open in Riyadh in April, and its creators have high hopes that it will come to London soon and are planning an international tour. Dame Sarah Connolly explains that she spoke to the Royal Opera House’s departing music director Antonio Pappano about the idea of staging the show, who said it sounded a “fascinating project”.

Zarqa Al Yamama
Daniele Finzi Pasca
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