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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 January 2019

Italy’s Fondazione Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi orchestra shine in the spotlight at Dubai Opera

As the first visiting orchestra hosted at the groundbreaking Dubai Opera, they spent the bulk of their six-night stay in the shadows – but for its closing engagement, the 65-piece ensemble emerged from the orchestra pit to take the spotlight in its own right.
Italy’s Fondazione Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi orchestra rehearse at Dubai Opera. Karim Sahib / AFP
Italy’s Fondazione Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi orchestra rehearse at Dubai Opera. Karim Sahib / AFP

As the first visiting orchestra hosted at the groundbreaking Dubai Opera, Italy’s Fondazione Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi spent the bulk of their six-night stay in the shadows, diligently presenting two maiden UAE operas – after backing Plácido Domingo on opening night.

But for Monday, September 5’s closing engagement, the 65-piece ensemble emerged from the orchestra pit to take the spotlight in their own right at Opera Without Words, a glorious compendium of famous instrumental overtures and interludes from the golden era of Italian opera.

These days, the scene-setting overture is a curious and delicate art – one man’s integral artistic statement is another’s decorous window-dressing, as evidenced when one Dubai critic recently dismissed the overture to The Barber of Seville as an orchestral “warm-up”.

But for opera composers otherwise tied to the dot-joining necessities of a libretto, an overture often seems to be an opportunity to let rip with shameless virtuosity, screaming “look what I can do” and cramming as many ideas as a symphony into fewer than 10 minutes.

A master of the art was Rossini, whose work made up about 80 per cent of the first half of Monday’s programme. It pointedly opened with the William Tell Overture, the infuriatingly parodied finale familiar from pop-culture sources ranging from the US TV series The Lone Ranger to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. That classic film also made notable use of the show-stopping La Gazza Ladra overture – the shining centrepiece of this lengthy Rossini tribute. If this is opera for beginners, then so what – Dubai needs to start somewhere, and what a wonderful and inclusive place to do so.

The musicians were visiting from their permanent home at the “Verdi Theatre”, the historic Trieste opera house dedicated, since his death in 1901, to the Italian master who grew up about 400km west of there in ­Busseto.

Verdi is still statistically the world’s most popular opera composer – clocking more than 3,000 performances during the 2014/15 season – so it is little surprise his work offered the evening its greatest highlights, in the show-stopping I Vespri Siciliani and La Forza del Destino overtures.

However, the orchestra’s subtle timbres perhaps shone brightest in Dance of the Hours, the Disney-parodied ballet segment from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda.

Proceedings mellowed further with three lush, dreamlike intermezzos, a trio that climaxed with the soaring interlude from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana – familiar from those emotion-milking milestones in macho cinema, Raging Bull and The Godfather Part III.

Closing out with Italian opera’s last great household name – the majestic act-bridging La Tregenda from Puccini’s Le Villi – we can look back on a historic welcome to Dubai Opera from this excellent visiting ensemble – and the triumphant opening week of a new UAE landmark.

Dubai Opera’s inaugural season continues on September 15 with a three-night stay from The Russian State Ballet and Orchestra of Siberia, presenting Coppélia and Giselle. For tickets and more information, see www.dubaiopera.com

ragarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: September 6, 2016 04:00 AM

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