First Look of the Dubai Opera

31-Aug-2016 | By: Gulf News

Gulf News takes an intimate tour of Dubai Opera on Tuesday, a day before the venue’s opening

The city’s first opera house, Dubai Opera will open its doors to the public on Wednesday with the help of Spanish tenor Placido Domingo, who’s performing a sold-out show in front of nearly 2,000 people.

As well as getting a glimpse of the auditorium, journalists were invited to a rehearsal of The Barber of Seville, an Italian opera that premiered in Rome in 1816, and will hit the stage in Dubai on September 2 and 4.

People have been curious about the inside of Dubai Opera for months. From the outside, the building, designed by Janus Rostock of WS Atkins, looks perfectly polished and modern, a welcome addition to Downtown Dubai’s bustling streets.

“I think the acoustic is generous. It’s an acoustic that makes the life of the singer easier than in other places, so it’s really fantastic,” said Stefano Pace, the CEO of Teatro Verdi Trieste, the Italian opera company that’s bringing ‘The Barber of Seville’ and ‘The Pearl Fishers’ to the Dubai Opera.

Dubai Opera_Preview

“The best seat in the place is normally in the middle. But I have to say that I went all around, and I think that the visibility of all the seats is very good. It’s quite astonishing – there are no seats where you think, ‘oh, I wouldn’t like to be there.’  This happens sometimes in Europe, in the ancient theater. But the theater’s been very well designed for all the audiences. So I think that there are good seats everywhere.

“It’s a quite nice mix of modern with traditional [aspects] of the local culture. It fits very well in the place and it’s in a very central spot. It’s quite exciting, we’re all excited at the idea of performing here and walking around this place.”

Inside look

The exterior of Dubai Opera was still being operated on by a large number of construction workers on all sides, with only the main entrance door available for use. To a laymen, it seems like the building still has a long way to go. But as we know, the show must go on – and the show will go on Wednesday night.


The interior, in contrast, is perfectly polished and ready for business. The dark wood of the balconies cascading on both sides of the auditorium is soothing and rich. The maroon leather seats are comfortable to sit in, and border on luxurious when compared to some flimsier seating arrangements around Dubai’s makeshift entertainment venues, though the taller members of the audience might be left dreaming of more legroom.

Overall, the subtle colour scheme is a sight for sore eyes, requiring little effort to adjust to. In terms of of size, the auditorium wraps around its audience loosely enough for it not to be suffocating, but tightly enough to feel cosy and familiar.

Last week, a video posted to Instagram showed the sprawling indoor space, featuring tiered, golden-brown balconies and rows upon rows of red seats, all gathered around a vacant stage. “It was just totally opposite of what I imagined,” said Janet Hassouneh, the founder of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) in the UAE. “I thought it was going to be another Boeing Hangar or something, [where they would] have to move things around to make things happen with the staging and the seating. But no, it looks like a proper little opera house, with boxes and balconies.”

Big names to perform

After Domingo’s daunting task of opening the house on Wednesday night, other big name performances will follow, including French opera The Pearl Fishers on September 1 and 3, the Romantic ballet Giselle on September 16, Jose Carreras’ final world tour, A Life in Music, in October, and of course, Broadway shows Les Miserables in November and West Side Story in February.

Ticket prices vary by show, but most begin around the Dh250 mark, with boxes entering the several thousands. But the best seats in the house aren’t necessarily the most expensive.

The sweet spot typically lies somewhere in the centre row, where audience members can enjoy balanced acoustics and a good overall visual.

Just the start

Opening night performer Domingo has not seen the venue yet, said Dubai Opera chief executive Jasper Hope.

“His rehearsal is a little bit later today,” he told Gulf News. “This is Placido Domingo. He’s been in almost every opera house, every concert hall around the world. I don’t need to show him what it looks like. I need to assure him in advance that it’ll be right. It’ll have everything that he wants and needs to be able to give this kind of performance, but I don’t need to send him a picture.”

Hope said he was nervous about making “everything perfect for the audience”.

“They’ve known for months that [Placido Domingo] is coming, and that it’s going to be a fantastic show. I need to make sure that it is.

“My belief is tomorrow night will look absolutely stunning. We’ve always said that there’s so much more to come. This, what you see now, is not the extent of Dubai Opera, and certainly not of the opera district.

“We have so many more things, from a restaurant on the roof, a fantastic rooftop space with amazing views … There is landscaping to connect us to the Burj Island, to overlook the islands. And there are some other buildings, as well. This is just the first. The start of it.”

Courtsey: GulfNews