x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Two UAE-based classical musical assemblies team up to honour the Italian Romantic composer Verdi's bicentennial.

Martyn Bagnall, HR head and trained classical musician will lead an assembly of 20 to showcase Verdi's Aida and other pieces. Courtesy Deutsche Bank
Martyn Bagnall, HR head and trained classical musician will lead an assembly of 20 to showcase Verdi's Aida and other pieces. Courtesy Deutsche Bank

When the romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi created the four-act opera Aida on the request of the khedive (viceroy) of Egypt in the 19th century, it opened to great fanfare in the land of the pyramids and pharaohs in 1871. In celebration of the bicentennial year of one of the most famous opera composers in the world, two UAE-based classic music assemblies – the Emirates Opera Project and Al Sharq Orchestra – will recreate the splendour of Aida and other popular Verdi compositions at the Egyptian-themed Raffles Hotel today.

Christine Belbelian, a soprano with the Emirates Opera Project, will be joined by four other members to cover some of Verdi’s best arias solo, duets and quartets. She says it is a great opportunity to be performing on the date of his birth anniversary.

“His 200th birthday is being celebrated all over the world this year,” says Belbelian.

“And we get to celebrate it with our show on the exact date. That, too, in a fitting manner, at a location that is well suited to Verdi’s opera.”

Belbelian says such prestigious shows in the UAE have been conducted by international musicians in the past, but with the growing classical music scene here, trained artists in the Emirates are stepping up to put on quality concerts.

Belbelian founded the Emirates Opera Project four years ago with six opera singers. They have collaborated with Al Sharq Orchestra, which was established by Mohamad Hamami and Barbara James in 2008 with 60 musicians of 22 nationalities from the UAE, for the production.

The Dubai-based conductor Martyn Bagnall will lead an assembly of 20 from among them to showcase Verdi’s well-known pieces including La donna è mobile from Rigoletto, Libiamo ne’ lieti calici from La Traviata, Va, pensiero from Nabucco and the Grand March from Aida.

The show has been organised by Montegrappa, the Italian manufacturer of luxury writing instruments.

“Verdi’s operas are very big and recreating that drama with music and sounds is always challenging,” says Belbelian.

“His songs are lyrical and moody, with rich and diverse harmonies coming together at once. Being in tune with the others is very important.

“One of my favourites is a piece from Rigoletto, which I will be performing. The aria is written in a beautiful and gentle way about a woman in love. The melody lines are very pure,” says the singer, who has been rehearsing since last month for the show.

Bagnall, who has conducted several Verdi musicals including Requiem in Dubai in 2010, says there will be three slots of five pieces each with various narratives for music lovers to savour.

“His music is so well known that quite a number of people will be able to identify his numbers and we have to get it just right,” he says. “The difficulty with a concert such as this is to provide a narrative thread.

“But the professionals will be able to convey the message as they will be introducing their piece with a theme setting.”

He says classic music enthusiasts will appreciate the local effort to bring the Italian composer’s greatest creations on stage for the occasion. “There is an appetite for high-quality, locally produced classical concerts and we are seeing an increase in good performers here who can offer that.”

• The gala dinner and concert will begin at 7.30pm at The Ballroom at Raffles Dubai in Wafi City. Tickets start at Dh500 and can be booked on www.montegrappa.me/verdi/ or by calling 050 928 0085

aahmed@thenational.ae