Dubai gets an opera house

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

ABOAT-SHAPED hulk of steel and glass at the foot of the world’s tallest tower, Dubai’s new opera house is set to boost the cul­tural life of the Gulf’s busi­ness hub. Work­ers are putting the fi­nal touches on the venue, a short walk from the 828-me­tre (2700-foot) Burj Khal­ifa, as it pre­pares to host Span­ish tenor Placido Domingo at an open­ing gala on Au­gust 31.

While Dubai has a rep­u­ta­tion for grand con­struc­tion projects, it has not had a land­mark venue for per­form­ing arts – un­til now.

“Look at ev­ery­thing else Dubai al­ready has ... now we’re go­ing make it even bet­ter,” said Dubai Opera’s CEO Jasper Hope, for­mer chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at Lon­don’s Royal Al­bert Hall.

“One of the ar­eas that has been miss­ing for many peo­ple is a venue in which to ex­pe­ri­ence bril­liant live mu­sic,” he told AFP.

Dubai Opera or­gan­is­ers hope to change that, with per­for­mances in­clud­ing Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and the Broad­way mu­si­cal West Side Story.

The venue will also host lo­cal shows, with pop­u­lar Emi­rati singer Hus­sain Al Jassmi per­form­ing there in Oc­to­ber.

In a nod to Dubai’s long his­tory as a port city, the opera house is shaped like a dhow, a tra­di­tional wooden boat used for cen­turies in Gulf wa­ters.

But the ul­tra-mod­ern 2000-seat venue can trans­form into three modes, op­er­at­ing as a the­atre, a con­cert hall and a flat-floored hall suit­able for ban­quets and wed­dings.

Dubai-based de­vel­oper Emaar Prop­er­ties, which also built the Burj Khal­ifa, has not re­vealed the cost of the opera project.

In the space of decades, Dubai has trans­formed it­self into a cen­tre for trade, travel and tourism.

Spend­ing tril­lions of dol­lars earned from oil ex­ports, it put it­self on the map with lux­ury re­sorts, glitzy sky­scrapers and ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands shaped as palm trees and a world map.

But its cul­tural scene re­mained low-pro­file in the busi­ness-ori­ented emi­rate.

Now, Dubai “has a vi­sion to be one of the top cities in the world”, said the Emi­rati direc­tor of the pri­vately run Cen­tre for Mu­si­cal Arts (CMA), Tala Badri.

To suc­ceed it has to “present the same things you would get whether you went to Lon­don or New York ... and that does in­clude per­form­ing arts”, she said.

Opera re­mains very much a cul­tural im­port for Gulf Arabs – the only other opera house in the re­gion is in the Omani cap­i­tal Mus­cat.

But Dubai’s pop­u­la­tion is pre­dom­i­nantly for­eign, in­clud­ing a size­able Western com­mu­nity.

Hope said his vi­sion is for the opera house to in­spire lo­cal artists.

“There are only a hand­ful of mu­si­cal ed­u­ca­tion, dance ed­u­ca­tion, the­atre ed­u­ca­tion projects run­ning right now. I sin­cerely hope, and we will ac­tively en­cour­age, many more to come out of what we’re do­ing,” he said.

Badri said she hopes Dubai Opera will help make the emi­rate a cul­tural cen­tre.

“The opera house is a great idea, but if you want to fill it you need to ed­u­cate a pop­u­la­tion to un­der­stand it,” Badri said.

“At the mo­ment it’s just a fa­cil­ity for host­ing things, and it could be so much more.” –

Photo: AFP

The build­ing, shown here in an artist ren­der­ing, is Dubai’s first step into be­com­ing a cul­ture hub for mu­sic.

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