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A grand opening at Dubai Opera

The National UAE, 1 settembre 2016

DUBAI // The UAE’s cultural scene took a mighty stride forward on Wednesday night with the grand opening of the Dubai Opera – inaugurated in suitably glorious fashion by a man widely dubbed the "king of opera".

Legendary tenor Placido Domingo marked the moment with a stunning opening concert, showcasing the Spaniard’s vocal virtuosity over favourite arias, duets and Broadway staples alike. Strolling the stage theatrically, the 75-year-old star made his gusto entrance with Giordano’s Nemico della Patria, Domingo’s bountiful charisma beaming from the stage.

Appearing alongside frequent co-star, soprano Ana Maria Martinez, the first half climaxed with a pair of stunning duets from much-loved operas La Traviata and Il Trovatore, both from the pen of Italian master, and Domingo favourite, Verdi.

Things took a lighter turn in the second half, with works from Broadway smashes My Fair Lady and West Side Story – a full production of the Broadway smash will reach Dubai Opera in February.

Throughout, Domingo was backed by Trieste’s 65-piece Fondazione Teatro Lirico ­Giuseppe Verdi, who were given the spotlight to open the evening with the dynamic overture to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.

Domingo is renowned beyond the opera community as one of the record-breaking Three Tenors trio, alongside the late Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras, who also performs at the Dubai Opera on October 4 and 8.

While there was no official dress code, most of the audience turned out in style to stroll the red carpet, with many of the men in black ties, while women donned showy ball gowns.

The 2,000-capacity Dubai Opera has been touted as the region’s first world-class, purpose-built performance venue. The opening weeks will feature a mix of classical orchestras, ballet, dance, world and Arabic music, as well as blockbuster musicals and family shows.

Chief executive Jasper Hope, who arrived after seven years heading London’s Royal Albert Hall, hailed the opening as a new phase in Dubai’s emergence as a world-class city.

"This is a moment of history, not just for Dubai, but in an even wider sense," said the 47-year-old British expatriate.

"Countries don’t build their first opera house very often. Countries don’t invest in culture and art with such a very clear statement.

"That’s part of the vision of Dubai, and it is extraordinary to find oneself a part of."

Construction of the dhow-shaped venue began in March 2013, a year after the project was announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who attended Wednesday night’s concert and rehearsals earlier in the day.

The concert venue will form the centrepiece of the wider Dubai Opera District, a new downtown cultural neighbourhood mixing hotels, residential buildings, shops, parks and a waterfront promenade.

"Everybody knows something about Dubai, but at the moment, they don’t know anything about music or opera in Dubai," Mr Hope said. "I would like people to start knowing that we have Burj Khalifa, we are going to have Expo 2020 – but we also have a fantastic opera house."

The Dubai Opera’s historic opening weekend continues on Thursday night with a performance of Bizet’s opera The Pearl Fishers, while tomorrow Rossini’s classic comedy, The Barber of Seville, takes to the stage.

To find out more and book tickets, visit