Of all Dubai's cultural initiatives to take shape in the last few years, nothing has been more anticipated than Dubai Opera. With a performance programme to rival Manhattan's Broadway and London's West End, Dubai has found its footing on the world stage in the form of this cutting edge multi-format venue in the new The Opera District in Downtown Dubai. "Technically, it's truly state-of-the-art - from the lighting to its ability to change from one style to another and the equipment that can be built into the design is phenomenal," says Dubai Opera Chief Executive Jasper Hope.
Where once local and small-scale productions dominated the performing arts scene in various venues across city, the emirate now has a permanent space to cultivate Dubai's vision of becoming the premier arts hub in the Middle East. Dubai Opera looks set to inject new cultural cred into the emirate with an international line-up of world-class events spanning ballet, opera, theatre and musicals.
"Up until now a night out in Dubai could incorporate so many wonderful things, but it couldn’t include a live show – at least not of the world-class quality that we will be offering," Hope explains. "For their operas or ballets or musicals they’ve turned to the likes of New York, London, Vienna and so on. Now they can do it all here."
Overlooking the Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa, the Arabian dhow-inspired structure owes its design to Dubai-based Dutch architect Janus Rostock. Seating up to 2,000 people, it's curved glass exterior is reminiscent of the traditional wooden boats so inherent to Dubai's maritime history.
Inside, the nautical theme continues, with the structure's ship-like bow comprising the main stage, orchestra, seating areas, as well as the rooftop and skygarden. The building's rear extends like a hull and functions as the waiting, taxi and parking areas. The interior has been designed to seamlessly switch between three performance modes: theatre, flat floor and concert, with the ability to host banquets as well as conferences and art exhibitions.
As the anchor of The Opera District project, a luxury cultural and lifestyle destination in the heart of the city, Dubai Opera's state-of-the-art facilities will soon attract the world's top ballet, opera and theatre productions to the Middle East. And the captain sure knows his way. At the helm is the former head of London's Royal Albert Hall, Jasper Hope. As Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Opera, he's responsible for setting the tone and has curated an impressive calendar of events to kick-start the first year.
On opening night, who better to break in Dubai Opera than a man who was once applauded for an hour and 20 minutes. Spanish tenor and conductor Placido Domingo, the same gent who received 101 curtain calls after his performance of Verdi's Otello at Vienna State Theatre, joins Grammy Award-winning soprano Ana Maria Martinez on stage in this sold out event.
Also on the calendar include The Pearl Fishers, a romantic opera by French composer Georges Bizet, which was first performed in 1863 and ties in nicely with Dubai's pearl-diving roots. There's also a performance of Giselle by the Russian State Ballet and foot-stomping, finger-clicking West Side Story with original choreography. Meanwhile, Emirati singer, Hussain Al Jassimi, has the honours of being the first Arabic native to grace the stage at Dubai Opera. The composer and songwriter, who was discovered on reality TV talent show Layali Dubai in 1997, has over 500 million views on Youtube.