Dubai Opera turned two-years-old in August.
What is remarkable is that with more than a hundred shows staged at the Downtown Dubai venue, it seems like it has always been part of the UAE’s cultural fabric. But for Jasper Hope, the chief executive and venue programmer, the best is yet to come.
“We are still coming of age. Although we are two years in and have had some amazing shows, we are still becoming a venue that is not just known in Dubai, but on an international stage as well. That takes time and things are developing well,” he says.
“The great thing is that it gets easier, the more developed you become, you get to know more people known for delivering quality shows and experiences, and it gets easier to attract the next round of performances and orchestras.
“But at the same time, you have to challenge yourself. You have to make sure that you are not being repetitive,” he adds. “People have to be excited. Our job here is to put on entertainment.”
That said, Hope takes us through some of his all-time favourite tunes.
A song that reminds me of my childhood: ‘Shadrack’ by Louis Armstrong
I was about six years old and this song takes me back to my travels through France in the summer with my parents. The song was playing in the car during those drives. It has a Biblical story and Armstrong’s voice has this wonderful mellow tone – I always have him singing in my head whenever I remember that time.
A song that made me want to begin a career in performing arts: ‘Piano Man’ by Billy Joel
The first proper concert I attended was a Billy Joel gig. It was at Wembley Arena in London in either 1983 or 1984. I was about 13 or 14 years old, and the reason why I went to the show was because I just loved that song. But it was the experience that stuck with me. Just being there with thousands of people and seeing them focused on one man and his music, is what made me want to head in that direction.
A song that makes me cry: ‘Mr Bojangles’ by Nina Simone
Now, I am not one to cry, but this song does make me emotional. It is the song my wife Anna and I chose as our first song at our wedding. Songs play a very important role in my professional life, but on a personal level, it is about how they touch your soul. It is the emotion you feel when you first hear it or when you get to know a piece of music and start to identify with it. It is also about the frequency with which you play it and ultimately, it’s about how music can help. I find it to be a great source of help when you are feeling all kinds of things. It can change your mood and make you feel nostalgic or happy. This song makes me feel both.
The best song you heard performed at Dubai Opera: ‘Scatterlings Of Africa’ by Johnny Clegg
His Dubai Opera show last year was part of his final tour, and there were so many people at the venue who are from here, and others who especially flew in for that performance. There was just so much emotion in that room, and it was great to be there and experience it with so many people. Also, I have to say that another special moment for me was watching my brother [Daniel Hope] perform Vivaldi recomposed by Max Richter at Dubai Opera in October 2016. That was pretty special for me.
A song that is a guilty pleasure: ‘Blame it on the Boogie’ by The Jacksons
I am not a dancer, but everyone needs to have something disco in their closet at home, right?