The New Prince, the dizzyingly ambitious and bitingly topical new opera from Emirati composer Mohammed Fairouz, which celebrated its world premiere with a standing ovation at Amsterdam’s Stadsschouwburg on Friday, March 24, in a big budget production by the Dutch National Opera. Courtesy Marco Borggreve
The New Prince, the dizzyingly ambitious and bitingly topical new opera from Emirati composer Mohammed Fairouz, which celebrated its world premiere with a standing ovation at Amsterdam’s StadsschouwbuShow more

Review: The New Prince is one of the most high-profile artistic statements from an Emirati



Imagine if Niccolò Machiavelli was fast-forwarded from Renaissance Florence, into the near-future of the 21st century. Imagine, now, that the proto-political scientist rewrote his still-dominant tract The Prince, 500 years after its initial publication, in 2032. Then imagine who he might call on to bring the book’s meditations on power and duplicity up to date.

The scene is now set for The New Prince, the dizzyingly ambitious and bitingly topical new opera from Emirati composer Mohammed Fairouz, which celebrated its world premiere with a standing ovation at Amsterdam's Stadsschouwburg on March 24, 2017 in a big budget production by the Dutch National Opera.

We meet Machiavelli in 1513 — disgraced, exiled, in bloodstained rags — and are quickly reminded of his key teachings. “And worst of all,” bellows baritone Joshua Hopkins in the lead role. “I said that if we must choose / Between being feared and loved / We should choose to be feared.”

After this brief period prologue, Fairouz’s scholarly score teleports us a half-millennium into the future, accelerating through the ages — a military march recalling the Napoleonic wars morphs into an ordered baroque counterpoint, before cantering through the 20th century via Glassian ostinatos into the internet age.

Librettist David Ignatius awakes the overwhelmed Machiavelli in 2032, where he is swiftly suited, booted, and sat down to meet his cut-throat 21st century publisher, Fortuna, skilfully voiced by soprano Karin Strobos. This classic muse demands an anniversary rewrite of The Prince — a 3D hologram edition, naturally — but with, she bites, “bankable names”. With all that history to catch up on, a ghost writer is required, and in a puff United States adviser Henry Kissinger appears as “scribe and jester” — cheekily rendered by Marc Kudisch — the first in a role-call of historical real-life names to succeed each other surreally onstage. In little time at all, a tongue-in-cheek dance sequence will see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fighting over a blow-up globe of the world.

But while there are frequent audience titters, The New Prince is the blackest of comedies. As Machiavelli soon learns, the stakes have raised considerably in the passing centuries — his previous employers, the princes of warring Renaissance-era city-states, are small fry compared to his patron of 2032.

President Wu Virtu is leader of the playfully dubbed “Amerasiopia”, an enormous “meta-kingdom” stretching across North America, Europe and Asia, ruled from the “tri-capitals” of Miami, Dubai and Shanghai, now dubbed New Columbia and the scene of our play. This mythical land is invoked by a symmetrical set of two six-note melody lines — representing, Fairouz has previously stated, the ordered two-way traffic of Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road — while the UAE national anthem can be fleetingly detected, in a brass line under Wu’s introduction.

Simon Lim hams it up as the playboy politician Wu, a fictional but imaginable composite whose precious rule faces the fallout of a post-globalised age of competing ideologies, limited resources and crippling climate change.

Machiavelli and Kissinger, however, are here to help — conjuring onstage historical revolutions, scandals and tragedies to teach old Wu a worthy lesson, each impressively rendered by Lotte de Beer’s sharp stage direction.

Having fled the Nazis in his teens and pioneered American relations with China in the 1970s, Kissinger is perfectly placed to introduce cameos of Hitler and Mao, whose world-cleansing desire chimes worryingly with Trump-era isolationism rhetoric. “History does not always progress, it recurs,” Kissinger warns.

Next we stop in Tahrir Square to witness the full-circle series of political upheavals which have rocked Egypt in recent years before things shift, outrageously, to the White House bedroom of Bill Clinton. Surely conceived, if not tweaked, long before last year’s electrons, Hillary Clinton is represented as both a subject of hope and hopelessness. Machiavelli is a fan — dismissing her husband, he declares the wife’s cold heart, “more precious than a diamond”.

Throughout Wu sits offstage in a VIP opera box, munching crisps irreverently and playing on his phone, not buying a word he’s sold.

The boldest moment of this decidedly bold work might be the sight of deceased Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and former US vice president Dick Cheney — introduced as “two men alike in rage and fear” — singing the same interwoven words, following a solemn invocation of the September 11 terror attacks which bring out some of Fairouz’s most effecting work.

The message here is Wu’s final lesson — “the end of war is war” — aggression met with aggression is a zero-sum game, and a clash of civilisations is the greatest possible threat to the future of mankind.

The New Prince is surely one of the most ambitious, high-profile artistic statements to emerge from an Emirati artist, yet it remains a shame that so few of the people who call the UAE home will experience the opera in Amsterdam. Hopes will rightly be ignited for a run at Dubai Opera.

rgarratt@thenational.ae

The Bio

Hometown: Bogota, Colombia
Favourite place to relax in UAE: the desert around Al Mleiha in Sharjah or the eastern mangroves in Abu Dhabi
The one book everyone should read: 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It will make your mind fly
Favourite documentary: Chasing Coral by Jeff Orlowski. It's a good reality check about one of the most valued ecosystems for humanity

Specs

Power train: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and synchronous electric motor
Max power: 800hp
Max torque: 950Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Battery: 25.7kWh lithium-ion
0-100km/h: 3.4sec
0-200km/h: 11.4sec
Top speed: 312km/h
Max electric-only range: 60km (claimed)
On sale: Q3
Price: From Dh1.2m (estimate)

FULL FIGHT CARD

Featherweight Bout: Abdullah Al Qahtani v Taha Bendaoud
Bantamweight Bout: Ali Taleb v Nawras Abzakh
Bantamweight Bout: Xavier Alaoui v Rachid El Hazoume
Featherweight Bout: Islam Reda v Adam Meskini
Bantamweight Bout: Tariq Ismail v Jalal Al Daaja
Bantamweight Bout: Elias Boudegzdame v Hassan Mandour
Amateur Female Atomweight Bout: Hattan Al Saif v Nada Faheem
Featherweight Bout: Maraoune Bellagouit v Motaz Askar
Featherweight Bout: Ahmed Tarek v Abdelrahman Alhyasat
Showcase Featherweight Bout: Mido Mohamed v Yazeed Hasanain
Showcase Flyweight Bout: Malik Basahel v Harsh Pandya

Results
  • Brock Lesnar retained the WWE Universal title against Roman Reigns
  • Braun Strowman and Nicolas won the Raw Tag Team titles against Sheamus and Cesaro
  • AJ Styles retained the WWE World Heavyweight title against Shinsuke Nakamura
  • Nia Jax won the Raw Women’s title against Alexa Bliss
  • Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon beat Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
  • The Undertaker beat John Cena
  • The Bludgeon Brothers won the SmackDown Tag Team titles against the Usos and New Day
  • Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle beat Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
  • Jinder Mahal won the United States title against Randy Orton, Rusev and Bobby Roode
  • Charlotte retained the SmackDown Women’s title against Asuka
  • Seth Rollins won the Intercontinental title against The Miz and Finn Balor
  • Naomi won the first WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal
  • Cedric Alexander won the vacant Cruiserweight title against Mustafa Ali
  • Matt Hardy won the Andre the Giant Battle Royal
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Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Sofia Boutella, Charlie Hunnam, Ed Skrein, Sir Anthony Hopkins
Rating: 2/5

Brief scores

Toss India, chose to bat

India 281-7 in 50 ov (Pandya 83, Dhoni 79; Coulter-Nile 3-44)

Australia 137-9 in 21 ov (Maxwell 39, Warner 25; Chahal 3-30)

India won by 26 runs on Duckworth-Lewis Method

Why it pays to compare

A comparison of sending Dh20,000 from the UAE using two different routes at the same time - the first direct from a UAE bank to a bank in Germany, and the second from the same UAE bank via an online platform to Germany - found key differences in cost and speed. The transfers were both initiated on January 30.

Route 1: bank transfer

The UAE bank charged Dh152.25 for the Dh20,000 transfer. On top of that, their exchange rate margin added a difference of around Dh415, compared with the mid-market rate.

Total cost: Dh567.25 - around 2.9 per cent of the total amount

Total received: €4,670.30 

Route 2: online platform

The UAE bank’s charge for sending Dh20,000 to a UK dirham-denominated account was Dh2.10. The exchange rate margin cost was Dh60, plus a Dh12 fee.

Total cost: Dh74.10, around 0.4 per cent of the transaction

Total received: €4,756

The UAE bank transfer was far quicker – around two to three working days, while the online platform took around four to five days, but was considerably cheaper. In the online platform transfer, the funds were also exposed to currency risk during the period it took for them to arrive.

SPECS

Engine: 4-litre V8 twin-turbo
Power: 630hp
Torque: 850Nm
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic
Price: From Dh599,000
On sale: Now

The specs

Engine: Single front-axle electric motor
Power: 218hp
Torque: 330Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 402km (claimed)
Price: From Dh215,000 (estimate)
On sale: September


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