x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Arts lovers welcome plan for new Dubai Opera House

'There's a big appetite and a big demand', but space should cater for performances from various cultures, says classical music promoter

An artist's impression of the opera house and museum of contemporary art that will be built near the Burj Khalifa, according to plans announced two weeks ago. Courtesy Media Office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Below, Brigitta Dagostin, the chair of the Dubai Concert Committee. Jaime Puebla / The National
An artist's impression of the opera house and museum of contemporary art that will be built near the Burj Khalifa, according to plans announced two weeks ago. Courtesy Media Office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Below, Brigitta Dagostin, the chair of the Dubai Concert Committee. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // A leading figure in Dubai's classical music scene who last year said the city urgently needed a purpose-built music venue has described plans to build an opera house near the Burj Khalifa as "fantastic".

Brigitta Dagostin, chair of the Dubai Concert Committee, said last May that a new venue was needed because classical music was being neglected to the extent that it had become a "cultural poor relation". Her committee hosts up to 12 events a year at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre and is the only organisation that regularly stages classical concerts in the city.

Mrs Dagostin said that the opera house plan was a huge step forward.

"It will be absolutely crucial for Dubai to have a cultural venue. I'm not sure if it should be called an opera house, but the name doesn't matter. What we really need is a multicultural venue, a hall with good acoustics that can accommodate all kinds of different performances."

She said she hoped the repertoire performed at the venue would extend beyond western opera to include a variety of styles and traditions from different countries and cultures.

"I think in the melting pot that Dubai is, it should be a multicultural venue for all kinds of cultural directions, from a classical concert to a classical opera, to Chinese opera to Indian concerts to Arabic concerts."

Mrs Dagostin pointed to the success of the Royal Opera House Muscat, which opened in the Omani capital last October, as proof of the interest in the region in what is often seen as a rarefied art form.

"The one at Muscat is absolutely fantastic," she said.

Mrs Dagostin said that a week ago, she attended a performance of Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio by the Hungarian State Opera at the Muscat opera house.

"It is sold out all the time," she said. "So it seems there is a big appetite and a big demand there for opera, and there is a similar demand in Dubai. This is what we hear every day from residents and from tourists from Europe and many other places. People find us through our web page and they ask, where can we see a concert or an opera or other high-class performance?

"I think this could attract a completely different group of tourist. If you look at the music festivals in Europe, they are always sold out, and something similar could take place in Dubai.

"The infrastructure is here, the airport is here, the hotels are here, so you could attract a completely different high-class tourist."

Mrs Dagostin said ideally the opera house would be developed in conjunction with a music school so that students could be inspired by seeing performances by famous artists.

"There could be European classical music, which probably people in Dubai would benefit from, and there could be Arabic music, which probably tourists would benefit from. So it could really be a bridge between cultures."

The venue is to form part of the Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District, which is to be built at Emaar's Downtown Dubai development. The project was announced on March 21 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in a statement released on the state news agency Wam.

The precinct will include a modern art museum, galleries, two "art hotels", leisure attractions, design studios and apartments. Further details, such as the capacity of the auditorium, have yet to be released.

The opera house plan has been welcomed by other prominent members of the arts community, too. Antonia Carver, fair director of Art Dubai, which ended last Saturday, said when the announcement was made: "It's always very positive to have cultural centres of all kinds, whether they be performing or visual arts. It's very exciting."

Earlier plans to build a 2,500-seat opera house designed by the Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid on an island in the Creek did not proceed.

The concert committee's next scheduled events are two performances by the Paris Chamber Orchestra at the beginning of May.

 

csimpson@thenational.ae