When French-Iranian soprano Darya Dadvar gives her debut performance in the Gulf, which takes place at Dubai Opera on Monday it will be the first time the singer's mother has seen her perform outside her home country, Iran. The singer will receive a very warm welcome as her family and friends are travelling to Dubai en masse from Iran especially for the event, meaning some long overdue reunions, and even a first meeting for her mother and the mother of her French husband.
"I'm singing one of my mother's songs as she's coming from Iran, too. She's seen me perform opera in Iran [Dadvar performed twice on stage in Iran during a brief liberalisation in 2002 under President Mohammad Khatani], but she's never seen me perform my music and what I've been doing for all these years, so that'll be really special for both of us," she says.
The singer, who grew up in Iran, took her musical studies diploma in vocal training in France, and a year later finished her musical education at the National Conservatory of Toulouse. In 2001, she moved to Paris, launching a successful career as a soprano. Dadvar also creates her own music, mixing traditional Iranian with European classical style.
Unsurprisingly, Dadvar has put something a little bit special into the concert's programme to mark the momentous occasion: "For this concert, I have chosen to sing the best things I could for this particular event," she says. "I could just do my own compositions, but this is a very special event, so I'll be doing one of my best friend's compositions. He is coming from Iran to see me – he's scared of flying, so he's coming all the way by boat."
Dadvar will be mixing up these very special performances with her own music, and classics from Persian, English and French cultures. The singer says that her work can’t really ever be tied down to one particular style or culture.
“Anywhere on the whole planet where I have done concerts, the audiences just totally connect with it. That’s just who I am and what I do, it’s international music,” she says.
“There are touches of Arabic music, Baroque music, classical, contemporary music, oriental music, jazz in there. That’s all the sort of music I listen to, and the music I compose just kind of pops out like that.”
Dadvar is also looking forward to appearing in one of the world’s most modern performance spaces, and sees it as a sign of the rapid changes sweeping the region. “The venue is exceptional. You wouldn’t believe the ways things are changing, the things that are happening, the activities available in the Middle East today. It would have been unthinkable a few years ago,” she says.
“When I used to meet people from the region in London or Paris, I always used to think I couldn’t communicate with them. I remember my cousin, who’s about 20 years older than me, did some work in the region in oil, and everything about it seemed to be so secretive and guarded, but the younger generation of Arabs now, it’s totally different. There’s so much more openness.”
She admits she had certain preconceptions of what to expect before agreeing to the show: "Initially, when I thought of Dubai, I thought very much about appearance." There was a negative misconception which, she says, was quickly dispelled when she began communicating with the people involved with the show.
"When I began exchanges with my producer in Dubai, and all the other people I've been communicating with, you realise it's not like that at all," she says. "I can tell you everybody is helping for this event, and I see the humanity of all the people I am connected with in the Middle East, right up to the director of
With so many friends and family in town for the performance, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Dadvar, her husband and three children will be spending a few days in town to catch up with old friends. She says her hopes for her stay are somewhat more spiritual.
“We’re going to be staying on for a few days, and I may even extend it to see my mother for longer if possible, but I never go anywhere as a tourist,” she says. “For me, the most beautiful, historical places are people’s hearts. I want to meet the highest, most spiritual people, and connect with them and learn from them. That’s the only thing I want to do in my life.”
Darya Dadvar performs at Dubai Opera on Monday, April 23. Tickets from Dh495. For more information, see www.dubaiopera.com