The world has welcomed Dubai onto the global cultural scene with the opening of the stunning Dubai Opera, featuring a mesmerising performance from Plácido Domingo.
Calling it an exciting addition to “this great city [that] has been growing and growing and growing,” the ‘King of Opera’ told the crowd it is “something you should be grateful for, for you, your family and your children”.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, toured the opera house ahead of the show, and hailed its importance in adding to the cultural value of the emirate.
“Music is a universal language, an artistic expression and testament to human creativity. Dubai Opera is its new home,” he announced.
“The Dubai Opera has a great value as a new platform for arts, an effective cultural bridge and an intellectual window for the infusion of the world’s creative arts.”
The Spanish tenor delighted the packed audience of 2,000 guests in the intimate venue with his incredible range, including renditions of Giordano’s Nemico della Patria and Andrea Chenier, followed by songs from musical theatre, such as My Fair Lady and West Side Story.
Domingo was backed by Trieste’s Verdi Orchestra throughout, which also opened the show with an overture of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.
The 75-year-old commanded the crowd’s full attention as he strode across the stage singing duets with soprano Ana Maria Martinez, but the showman had them roaring and singing during an encore performance of Besame Muchos.
Earlier, the audience, dressed in their evening finest, enjoyed canapes in the stunning new dhow-shaped building. Drawing inspiration from Dubai’s rich maritime history, the building is fashioned with elegant wood panelled interiors and a stunning chandelier of blown glass pearls cascading from the ceiling.
We spoke to Jasper Hope, the Chief Executive of Dubai Opera, in the wings, on opening night.
What does Dubai Opera bring to the city and how will it change its cultural offering?
Dubai Opera is a fantastic new addition to Dubai. It is offering world class entertainment night after night throughout the year – every kind of genre you can imagine. Finally, Dubai has a world-class stage that can welcome international and local artists to celebrate all that is wonderful about live entertainment.
What are some of the highlights? What are you looking forward to the most?
I am spoiled for choice. There are almost 75 shows we’ve announced so far; I envisage us doing up to 200-250 every year. We have musicals, Arabic artists, jazz, and rock and pop eventually. We have opera and classical music as well as Broadway and West End hits all coming to Dubai.
What can guests expect at Dubai Opera?
They can expect something different. Dubai is a city full of wonderful attractions, but this is something else. This is a new layer of entertainment, a new style, a new class, a new quality. They can come and relax, sit in the theatre and enjoy a fantastic live show. This is something they haven’t been able to do in the past, but now they can.
What sets Dubai Opera apart from other venues in the world?
Dubai Opera is different from anywhere else in the world simply because it is in Dubai. This is a totally different city filled with energy and a cosmopolitan nature that is unlike anywhere else. That is reflected in the programs of Dubai Opera, its design and the audiences.
Who is the main audience you’re seeing tonight?
Tonight is a completely international audience. I know a lot of people have flown in especially for the occasion from the GCC and further afield from Europe and America. It is a true celebration of what Dubai can achieve and how important live entertainment and culture is in so many people’s lives. It’s a great celebration.
How has the reaction to Opening night and Plácido Domingo been?
We are honored to have him – he is, of course, a legend. He is a truly wonderful performer. He comes to honour us by appearing as the first person on our stage. It is a great tribute to the building, to Dubai Opera and to Dubai the destination, that he would agree to do this. It is fantastic that he could be here.
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