Andrea Bocelli performed a concert in Dubai this week, taking to the stage alongside a number of Israeli musicians.
The celebrated Italian tenor headlined a private event at Dubai Opera on Tuesday, December 8. Some of the talent involved in the show confirmed to The National that the concert was a strictly invitation-only affair.
Dubbed the Celebration of Peace Concert, the gala evening was held in celebration of the UAE and Israel’s formal ties as part of the Abraham Accord.
In attendance were a group of UAE dignitaries and Israeli officials, including the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who documented the show on social media.
On the programme was a repertoire of arias and orchestral works by Puccini and Bizet. Bocelli was joined on stage by high-profile Israeli musicians including pianist Idan Raichel, soprano Talia Or and pop singer Nasreen Qadri.
They were supported by a 45-piece orchestra made up of international musicians and the UAE ensemble, the Arabian Philharmonic.
“It was a really wonderful evening and, because of the occasion, it was really powerful,” said Shelley Frost, owner of Dubai music hub The Fridge, which is home to the Arabian Philharmonic.
Speaking to The National on the afternoon after the event, Frost revealed it was a race against the clock to pull the event together.
“I was basically given a brief to organise 45 musicians to support Andrea Bocelli in the space of 48 hours,” she says. “I thought about it for a few minutes before agreeing and calling every musician I could think of. It was an amazing opportunity.”
The reason for the urgency was explained by Raichel in a lengthy Instagram post uploaded hours after the concert.
According to the composer, the initial event – a production by the Israeli Opera House – was scrapped after a member of the company tested positive for Covid-19.
With 48 hours until curtain call and Bocelli already bound for the UAE, Raichel and his ensemble got to work designing a new programme.
“Sunday morning I received an urgent call from the President’s House, followed by a conference call with the chairman of the Israel Export Institute," he said on social media. “They asked me if I can put together a show that will be suitable for the audience in Dubai within 48 hours.”
Both Raichel and Frost managed to pool their resources in time, with the first of two rehearsals taking place on Monday, December 7.
“Everyone was a professional and we all knew we had a job to do,” Frost says of those sessions. “We received the programme on the day of the event and we got it ready for the show. A star like Bocelli doesn’t need to attend rehearsals often, so we had to be on point and prepared for him, which we thankfully did.”
Judging by the reactions of attendees on social media, the show was a hit.
"And the evening gets better. Andrea Bocelli at the Dubai Opera house," posted Hassan-Nahoum with one of three images on her Twitter account.
"No words to describe this beautiful cultural exchange in Dubai," posted Israeli journalist Michal Divon with a video snippet of the performance.
Danish cellist and Dubai resident Soren Hansen described the view from the stage.
"It was a beautiful and really exciting," he said. "This was a concert for culture, as a musician, you can't ask for anything better than that."
The evening’s host, Emirati writer Aida Al Busaidy, also underscored the momentous occasion by posting a video of her greeting the crowd in Hebrew, much to their applause.
“So proud to have been entrusted with such an amazing task and what a night," she wrote.