First Look of the Dubai Opera
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.
“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.”
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.