Pablo González Conducts World Premiere of Zarqa Al Yamama in Riyadh

25 Apr 2024

Pablo González conducts the world premiere of Zarqa Al Yamama, the first opera produced by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 25 April at the King Fahad Cultural Centre in Riyadh. Based on a treasured folk story, the opera features libretto by celebrated Saudi writer and poet Saleh Zamanan and music by Australian composer Lee Bradshaw in collaboration with Saudi musicians. Stage director Daniele Finzi Pasca will transport audiences to pre-Islamic Arabia and costume designer Giovanna Buzzi collaborated extensively with her team to ensure the costumes reflected the visual aesthetics of the era.

The production stars mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly in the title role, sopranos Sawsan Albahiti (as Bridesmaid), Serena Farnocchia (as Hazlia), Reemaz Oqbi (as Bridesmaid) and Amelia Wawrzon (as Afira); tenors Paride Cataldo (as Ben Afar Al’Aswad) and Khayran Al Zahrani (as Naoufel); baritone George von Bergen (as Attendant to King Amliq/Riyah Ibn Murra) and bass Aleksandar Stefanoski (as both Amliq and the Commander of the Arties of King Taba); with the Dresdner Sinfoniker and Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno.

Zarqa Al Yamama reimagines a mythological chapter of Arabian Peninsula history, weaving together powerful operatic performances and a mesmerising musical score. Through its innovative fusion of Arabian and classical European influences, Zarqa Al Yamama introduces a groundbreaking new addition to the opera canon, enriching the global cultural repertoire with its unique resonance and depth.

The opera is based on an ancient tale from pre-Islamic Arabia. The production tells the story of a legendary blue-eyed woman, born of the Geddes tribe and blessed with the gift of foresight. After foreseeing an attack by 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.

Zarqa Al Yamama runs at The King Fahad Cultural Centre through 4 May. For more information and tickets, please visit:

Hailed as one of the most passionate conductors of his generation, Pablo González recently completed his four-years long term as the Principal Conductor of the Spanish Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra (RTVE) and Artistic Adviser to the Orchestra and Choir, having appeared regularly at Madrid’s Teatro Monumental. Pablo previously served as Music Director of the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona I Nacional de Catalunya.

Pablo enjoys a flourishing guest conducting career and has established several close relationships, with among others the Helsinki Philharmonic, Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, Dresden Philharmonic, The Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern, Stavanger Symphony, Bochum Symphony, and Residentie Orchestra in the Hague. In the recent seasons Pablo has also collaborated with the Lahti Symphony in Finland, Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in the United Kingdom and with the Sinfonieorchester Basel.

His additional recent highlights include his debuts with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Strasbourg Philharmonic, Stuttgart Staatsorchester and at the Philharmonie de Paris with the Orchestre National d’Ile de France; and returns to Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and The Hague’s Zuiderstrandtheater with the Residentie Orchestra, and the Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur.

Born in Oviedo, Pablo studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and first captured international attention with his victories at the Donatella Flick and Cadaqués International Conducting competitions. Pablo has previously served as Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra of the City of Granada and as Assistant Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Photo: Benjamin Ealovega