Jasper Hope is a man constantly on the move. The chief executive of Dubai Opera may have been tempted to think most of the hard work was over after the grand opening on August 31. However, the need of the hour is to create an eclectic events calendar that befits a well-rounded cultural institution. To achieve this, the 47-year-old Briton – who was formerly the chief operating officer of London’s Royal Albert Hall – has to travel far and wide to seek out and forge new partnerships. “I feel like an international citizen,” he says. “The entertainment space is not defined by where you come from or what language you speak. It is about the talent and quality of a performance, and the appreciation of an audience. I need to go to a lot of countries to understand where the music comes from, and then imagine if it is the right kind of thing for an audience in Dubai.”
How frequently do you travel?
It is every month, for sure. It is just a question of how many months for how many days. For instance, I am leaving tomorrow to London for five nights, for the rehearsals of Les Misérables [playing at Dubai Opera until December 2], followed by a series of meetings and shows. I also do some pretty quick trips. For example, I recently went to Australia for three days.
How often do you go on holiday?
We definitely try to have one big family holiday every year. If there is time to do two, we will. If I could squeeze a few long weekends to spend time with my wife, see friends or play golf then I will do that, too.
How do you decide your holiday destinations?
We do have a list of what we want to do. One of the attractions of moving to Dubai is to have a different geographic centre. When we were living in the United Kingdom, we would do trips to various European countries. However, now that we live in Dubai, we have to think of new places, ideally those that are a relatively short flight away from here. The last holiday we did was Sri Lanka in April. We had never been there before and it was fantastic. It was close and very family-friendly.
Where do you call home?
Dubai is definitely home. A big part of that comes from the attitude that we came here with. It was never about doing a contract job. Look, that is also fine and that works for others. But personally, to move your children and family from what they have been used to to a completely new place is a big decision. We were not going to do that on a basis that this is a short-term thing. As soon as we moved here, we knew this was our home.
Do you travel light?
I insist on it. I don’t have a need for too many different outfits. I generally wear a suit, and that’s relatively easy to carry. I also need a computer, phone and wash bag, and then I am done. I learnt this over 20 years. I travelled with tours and artists, and am used to jumping in and out of airplanes, and staying in a city for one night. You learn to pack appropriately. My tip is a suit and shirt that doesn’t crease easily.
Do you prefer simplicity or luxury?
Simplicity in terms of arrangements, but in terms of quality of experience, I would say luxury.
What has been your favourite trip?
We are going back now to the early 1990s. There was a period when Spain was the European Capital of Culture, hosting the Expo and the Olympics in a space of a few years. As a result, there were a lot of opportunities for entertainment touring. I remember I went there six or seven times on classical-music tours. It was the only time in my life where for one year I went back to the same country and cities repeatedly. That opportunity is rare in my life, and it is a really good way to learn more about a particular country, its people and culture.
What do you love about travelling?
Food is a big attraction for me. Everywhere I go, I like to eat the local specialities.
What do you hate about travelling?
I am not a big fan of airports. I don’t mind the rest of the experience – the flying and hotels – but I try to spend as little time as I can in airports. It doesn’t matter whether I have a lounge or not. I just want to get on with it.
What’s your idea of the perfect weekend?
Family time. I do very long days, because there is the show itself and the dinner after the show. When I travel, there are performances at night. It can get pretty taxing. When I get downtime, I just want to stay home with the kids, be in the pool and have family meals – they are very important.
What is your most romantic place?
The Maldives, although we haven’t been there yet, but it is on our list. It seems to be an idyllic vision of a holiday paradise and is something that we have on our minds right now.
What’s your favourite cultural destination?
You have to pick your mood. If you are looking for history, then I would recommend St Petersburg for a completely different view of the world, and the many artistic treasures in terms of museums. If you are looking for shows, then you would be very hard-pressed to beat the quality of theatre, opera and concerts in London.
For details on shows being performed at Dubai Opera, visit www.dubaiopera.com.