In May last year, Australian composer Lee Bradshaw attended a presentation in Saudi Arabia to update the Ministry of Culture on the state-of-play of a new opera it had commissioned called Zarqa Al Yamama. Among the guests who had gathered in the opulent tent set up for the occasion was the Minister of Culture himself, His Highness Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud.

After the guests had been shown the stage designs, Bradshaw introduced some excerpts from the score, which had been recorded in Budapest. One of the pieces of music depicted a desert storm.

Lee Bradshaw, Dame Sarah Connolly and Reemaz Oqbi stand in front of buildings in Saudi Arabia in a promotional image for Zarqa Al Yamama.

Lee Bradshaw, Dame Sarah Connolly and Reemaz Oqbi. Photo supplied.

“We played it and within minutes, in the middle of Saudi Arabia in the desert, the sky just opened up and there was torrential rain in a real desert storm,” says Bradshaw. “All the people from the Ministry, including the Prince, were looking at each other going, ‘Oh, this is a good sign!’”

Zarqa Al...