Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates --- January 3, 2011 ---  World Orchestra for Peace concert was held at Emirates Palace with Maestro Valery Gergiev conducting the orchestra.   ( DELORES JOHNSON  / The National
Valery Gergiev conducts the World Orchestra for Peace concert at Emirates Palace. Dubai music lovers say they are missing out.

Dubai music fans seek new classical music venue

Dubai urgently needs a new, more central concert venue, a leading figure in the emirate's classical music community has urged. Only government support can make that happen, says Brigitta Dagostin, chair of the Dubai Concert Committee

Classical music lovers are neglected, Mrs Dagostin says, while the visual arts, cinema and literature are prospering thanks to the support they get support.

Her committee is the only organisation that regularly stages concerts. Now she wants help in "rescuing" classical music from its "poor relation" status.

"I've been here for 20 years, and in the first few years there was absolutely zero," says Mrs Dagostin, who is Swiss. Even since her committee was formed in 1996, she admits, "not much more has developed".

"The key would be to get the Government involved. If we could get a certain amount [of funding] from the Government then we could slowly start to talk about a higher level."

She contrasts the state of classical music in Dubai with that in the capital, where concert-goers recently were able to enjoy performances by international stars including the Russian National Orchestra, the Bolshoi Ballet dancers Yelena Andrienko and Dmitri Gudanov, and the pianist Christia Hudziy at the Abu Dhabi Festival.

She too aims to have a classical music festival that would draw tourists and classical music lovers alike.

The Concert Committee hosts one performance a month at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (Ductac). But more is needed, says Mrs Dagostin urges.

"I think it would be absolutely feasible to promote classical music and to be surrounded by it here in Dubai. I think you could sell it.

"There is Emirati interest and we should reach out to local schools; we should try to get young Emiratis into our concerts."

A centrally located concert hall is essential, she says. Al Mamzar, the site of the Cultural and Scientific Association's 1,000-seat venue, is too remote.

"I think it would be fantastic if we could get a venue in a good location that could be easily reached from more or less the whole city.

"I don't think it should be only for classical music - it should offer a healthy mix of local music, Indian music, Latin American music, whatever groups we have here, with classical music as part of the mix.

"Ideally that venue would also have a music school to give a platform to students with the goal of one day getting a young star or a musician out of this region."

Her group is seeking to bring what she described as one of the world's most famous orchestras to Dubai. "But the chances are very small," she says, "because the money involved is simply too high".

A high-quality festival with international artists would also help to raise the profile of classical music, Mrs Dagostin says.

"We can see in Europe that there is tourism for this kind of festival. People travel to all kinds of cities to see a particular performance or artist.

"In Dubai, with all its fantastic infrastructure and facilities, they could do that here as well - but again for this the venue is really missing."

The Dubai Culture and Arts Authority is the government body responsible for the arts. Yasser al Gergawi, the authority's performing arts manager, says: "Dubai has several institutions that support classical music training, and the city regularly hosts concerts that bring in the best names in classical music from around the world.

"Dubai Culture regularly interacts with patrons and art enthusiasts to discuss ideas and initiatives that further drive the arts including classical music.

"We are confident that along with the growth in demand for classical music, Dubai will set vibrant platforms that support the cultural aspirations of the UAE's music lovers.

"The authority supports the existing venues such as Ductac and the Cultural and Scientific Association that host music-training sessions as well as performances. Dubai Culture will continue to support initiatives that boost the classical music scene."

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