Timeframe: Remembering the biggest shows at Dubai Opera as it turns six

The venue opened in August 2016 with a performance by Spanish opera singer Placido Domingo

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Dubai Opera will be six years old this month.

The centre opened in August 2016 and has since become Dubai’s most prestigious address for the performing arts.

The dhow sail-shaped structure is a landmark in Downtown Dubai even among the huddle of picturesque buildings around it. The venue has served as a much-needed platform in the city for world-class opera, concerts and theatre. Performers have included Andrea Bocelli and Anna Netrebko, while orchestras from around the world have reinvigorated classics that range from Beethoven and Bach to Charles Aznavour and Aretha Franklin.

To commemorate the occasion, we take a look at six of the most memorable shows at the venue.

Opening night

Placido Domingo raised the curtain at Dubai Opera in thrilling fashion. Photo: Dubai Opera

Opening night at Dubai Opera was as grand as it was eclectic, spanning centuries and genres from Verdi to West Side Story.

The star of the show was Placido Domingo. Even at 75, the tenor managed to deliver a performance that underscored his epithet as the King of Opera. Domingo made his entrance with Giordano’s Nemico della Patria, before belting through duets from Verdi operas La Traviata and Il Trovatore alongside soprano Ana Maria Martinez.

The second half of the show, meanwhile, took its cues from Broadway hits My Fair Lady and West Side Story.

Umm Kulthum

The Umm Kulthum hologram concert was officially sanctioned by her family and estate. Photo: Dubai Opera

One of the most memorable shows at the Dubai Opera starred the late Umm Kulthum.

A hologram concert featuring a projection of the Egyptian singer accompanied by a live band was held at Dubai Opera on December 2019, and then again in August 2020.

She was known to take her time before walking on to the stage. She knew how to enchant and command an audience. She knew suspense played a part.

The monochrome videos we have of Kulthum’s performances are all grainy and lack definition, and while her music is still very much alive throughout the Arab world, the videos give only a tiny glimpse of the power the singer had over her audience.

The hologram concert offered fans a chance to experience her shows as they would have been in the 1960s. The hologram of Kulthum performed many of the late diva's greatest hits during the two-hour event, including Al Atlal, Enta Omri and Alf Leila We Leila, going through five wardrobe changes throughout the performance.

'The Little Prince'

Two screens make up the floor and the backdrop of the show, with performers using video-mapping technology to bring the cosmic journey of 'The Little Prince' to life. Photo: Dubai Opera

Bringing the cosmic magic of Saint-Exupery's 1945 novella to stage can be quite a challenge, but The Little Prince play adaptation at Dubai Opera managed to do just that, thanks to a lot of acrobatics, dance and video-mapping technology. The play opened at the venue on January 22, 2020 and ran for five shows.

Two screens made up the floor and the backdrop, bringing the flair of digital magic to the performance.

The 10-person cast, meanwhile, consisted of a range of performers, each of whom brought a different speciality to the table, from more traditional forms of dance to hip-hop and acrobatics.

'Mary Poppins'

The Dubai Opera production of 'Mary Poppins' featured many slick scenery changes: one moment you were in a family living room, then on a London street, and suddenly up on a rooftop. Pawan Singh / The National

The stage adaptation of the 1964 musical Mary Poppins ran over the course of a month in May 2017.

The title role was played brilliantly by Zizi Strallen. With her umbrella aloft, the British actress gave a stellar performance as the magical nanny flying above the stage and, in the final scene, the audience. Australian actor Matt Lee also showed his daring as Bert, dancing up the side of a wall and persisting on a roof, upside down, still in song. The production featured many slick scenery changes: one moment you were in a family living room, then on a London street, and suddenly up on a rooftop.

One of the highlights of the show was the final song of act one, a reprise of Chim Chim Cher-ee from Mary and Bert, that had the audience singing along.

'The Phantom of the Opera'

'Phantom of the Opera' is based on the stormy relationship between the title character and his protege Christine Daae. Photo: Dubai Opera

Based on the classic novel by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most popular and lavish musicals in the history of the genre, and its run at Dubai Opera did not disappoint.

The adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber premiered in London’s West End 1986 and has since been seen by more than 130 million people worldwide. The musical, which ran at Dubai Opera for almost a month in October 2019, revolves around a French theatre company and its Phantom, a disfigured musical prodigy who lives beneath the theatre.

More than 130 cast, crew and orchestra members made their way to the UAE for the show, including Jonathan Roxmouth, a South African actor who had previously portrayed the Phantom in Singapore and the Philippines.

The performance took full advantage of the venue.

The Phantom's Gothic lair was beautifully realised, with candelabras and exquisite furniture steeped in a fog generated by a smoke machine. There were also more than 200 costumes featured in the show, from the elaborate regalia worn by the French nobility to the ballet attire worn by characters in the theatre side of the story.

'Les Miserables'

'Les Miserables' has been running since the 1980s and a touring version of the show came to Dubai Opera in 2016. Photo: Dubai Opera

The longest-running musical made its way to Dubai Opera on its 30th anniversary.

Cameron Mackintosh's record-breaking production of the legendary musical Les Miserables had its Gulf premiere at the venue in November 2016.

Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name, first published in 1862, is a hefty, labyrinthine affair set during the 1832 June rebellion in Paris. The stage adaptation magnifies the book’s bigger emotions, focusing on the universal topics of love and justice.

The performance did not scale down its grandeur for the Dubai run, featuring 392 costumes made up of 1,782 items of clothing as well as a cast and crew of more than 100 people.

Updated: August 29, 2022, 5:42 AM
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