Expo 2020 Dubai organisers may have to think about adding more Firdaus Orchestra shows – if demand for the opening night of AR Rahman’s ensemble is anything to go by.
Shows at Jubilee Park are not ticketed, so it was those who queued early who were able to see the all-women Firdaus Orchestra perform their space-themed repertoire.
Thousands of visitors queued for hours before the show, with dozens left outside behind barricades after the venue reached maximum capacity.
“I have been an AR fan for so many, many years and I love Bollywood,” said Dina Belise from Kazakhstan who found space on blue bean bags placed across the park.
“I will be coming for all his events at Expo.”
She stood in line three hours before the concert began.
“It is thrilling; fantastic to hear him and be so close,” she said.
Many speaking before the show hoped to hear Rahman classics like Vande Mantaram.
“Any AR hits will do. This is his first concert for us,” said Dubai resident Noumith Dhananjaya from Bangalore, India, who was with his family.
Yasmina Sabbah, the conductor, led the 50-strong women’s orchestra opening with the famous Star Wars theme and an iconic Rahman soundtrack Bombay, a Bollywood release from the 1990s.
This was followed by a collection of haunting pieces, including Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
Musicians on traditional Arabic instruments the qanun, buzuk and oud matched the beat and tempo of the western classical oboe, flute and violin.
The crowd clapped and cheered through the hour-long show as they gathered around the perimeter of the park that houses Expo's largest performance venue.
The Oscar and Grammy-winning composer thanked the Expo for making his first performance in Dubai possible this year.
This is the first of six concerts over the next five months with the orchestra he has mentored.
Introduced as the orchestra’s mentor and guide, Rahman commanded the stage after the first hour for his original finale piece.
The famous music director said he competed the composition two days before Saturday’s show, as he welcomed Hindustani classical vocalists from India and sopranos, in a legendary fusion of East and West.