Dubai Opera – A Fusion of Music and Stories

Written by Silvana Fitzpatrick

As famous Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti once said: “Opera is a beautiful and important diversion.” His words resonate so well with Dubai Opera’s symbolic mission. Ever since the city welcomed the opera house as a new addition, Dubai's cultural life has turned a new leaf in regard to its role as a vibrant artistic hub, hosting the finest, most engaging artistic events and offering insight into the emirate’s versatile art scene.

Dubai Opera was inaugurated in August 2016 featuring a sold-out performance by Placido Domingo.

The venue reinforces the emirate’s reputation as a pioneer of luxury and connoisseur of culture, and it has drawn comparisons to the world’s top opera houses such as the Sydney Opera House in Australia and the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in terms of architectural splendour and artistic opulence. The venue delivers some of the most enchanting performances, for many a form of healthy escapism, and soothing distraction from the busy, fast paced Dubai life. What makes Dubai Opera so unique is the combination of its design - shaped like a traditional sailing vessel known as a ‘dhow’ - and the fact that it is the emirate’s first multi-format performing arts venue located next to Burj Khalifa, in Downtown Dubai.

The structure is home to various performances, concerts, ballets, and fashion shows all throughout the year. Dubai Opera brings local communities together, adding life and magical energy to the place, transporting the audience to another time and place by stimulating imagination and artistic expression. In doing so, it establishes Dubai as a seat of performing arts, reinforcing its cultural footprint and increasing its magnetism for the tourism industry – a cornerstone of Dubai’s economy.

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Architectural Marvel Rooted in Dubai’s Origins

Due to its innovative construction, Dubai has one of the most recognizable skylines in the world, including Burj Khalifa, as well as the Burj Al Arab, the city's first seven-star hotel. Next to those, Dubai Opera stands as a contemporary design masterpiece, serving as a tribute to the city’s maritime history, with the building’s vessel shape rooted in Emirati culture.

Dubai Opera was designed by Atkins and Janus Rostock, a lead architect and urban designer, who stated that he had always wanted to get involved in Dubai’s architectural landscape, as he believes the city serves as a fertile ground for the imagination. Rostock had previously been involved in other standout projects such as Bluewaters and Dubai Creek Harbour, all of which have fundamentally changed the face of Dubai.With Dubai Opera, he found a unique way of communicating his design intentions to the world, based on his own vision rooted in the city itself, and based on his love for delivering projects that get inhabited by people.

It was a vision that came with many challenges and complex aspects that he had to factor in. Rostock’s wish was to create a building that is representative of and gradually adapts to its environment. But, so much more than that, Dubai Opera was going to occupy one of the most emblematic spots in the heart of the city: it sits next to Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and Dubai Mall, the world’s biggest mall. The architect’s challenge was to deliver a structure that would compete with such architectural wonders.

And so, he did. He started “sailing” through the opera house by shaping it like a large sailing vessel – the dhow. This is the type of ship that the Emirati pearl divers used in the Arabian Gulf a long time ago. The dhow would bring prosperity to those shores, and attract trade and business through pearl diving and fishing. Therefore, the dhow is very much a part of the narrative, as it evokes tales of Emirati culture, celebrating the city’s past and Dubai’s progression to the metropolis we have all come to discover and love today. ​Building works for the opera house started in 2013 and took three years to reach completion.

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Dubai Opera Highlights

The entire opera house sprawls over 35,000 square meters in total, and can hold up to 2000 people. The building is a strong statement of versatility and multifunction, for a venue of its size, as it has the capacity to morph into three modes: from a theater venue to a concert hall and “flat floor” mode, boasting 2,000 square meters of space reserved for gala events.

In the Theatre Mode, the space is suitable for large-scale productions such as musicals and ballets, complemented by refined fabric and acoustic walls, for perfect sound quality.

In Concert Hall Mode, the venue transforms itself into a perfect acoustic environment with great echo and resonance quality.

The state-of-the-art venue is supported by 70,000 cubic meters, and 12,000 tons of steel, measuring 44 meters in height. The opera house interior is a sight to behold, adorned with marble and showcasing a wide-open landscape framed by Downtown skyscraper views.​Inside Dubai Opera, guests can explore a number of venues including a spectacular rooftop restaurant and sky garden with views of The Dubai Fountain and the imposing Burj Khalifa.

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A “Symphony” of Glass and Light

Symphony, the majestic five-ton chandelier inside the venue, is one of the central pieces in the opera house. Sparkling in the splendour of its own glowing lights, the spectacular sculpture descends dramatically from the ceiling, spanning three floors of the main atrium.

Symphony takes pride of place inside the building, perfectly complementing the surroundings. It was inspired by fishing nets, as a swirl of bubbles rising from the ocean's depths, to bring homage to the fishing trade that served as the foundation of Dubai at the time. The chandelier sparkles with 30,000 individually crafted crystal components and is lit by around 3,000 internal LED sources. The geometric spacing of glass parts evokes fishing nets moving through water. The chandelier is made of tiny strings of handmade glass pearls. Each pearl has been filled with a tiny air bubble to enhance light refraction as it passes through the piece. The sculpture is 27 meters high, 11 meters long and 5 meters wide and was manufactured in the Czech Republic using traditional glass-blowing methods.

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Past and Upcoming Performances

Over the years, the opera house has brought to life some of the most memorable performances that are still emotionally resonating with the audience.Now that Dubai Opera is turning six this year, we take a moment to celebrate some of its milestones and top shows that graced the opera’s stage starting with Placido Domingo back in 2016, who made his entrance with Giordano’s Nemico della Patria and duets from Verdi operas La Traviata and Il Trovatore.

Other amazing performers included legendary opera singer Adrea Bocelli in December 2020, who delivered a symbolic concert titled “ Celebration of Peace” reinforcing Dubai and UAE’s reputation as a beacon of tolerance and role model for intercultural harmony and diversity. Other highlights included shows such as “Les Misérables”, “Phantom of The Opera”, Verdi’s “Aida” and “Mamma Mia”, raising the opera’s profile to the epitome of class and culture.

The venue is packed with upcoming events this festive season, with special shows taking center stage throughout December and January On the 17th of December, Dubai Opera brings you Tchaikovsky's all-time Christmas favourite The Nutcracker, by the incredible Moscow Ballet “La Classique”. “The Sound of Christmas” is coming to Dubai Opera on the 22nd of December featuring twenty-five of the finest Jazz musicians in the UAE and GCC, and they will delight guests with the best selection of Christmas songs.

Dubai Opera exudes character and romantic allure, as a venue for performing arts that draws us in with its charm, ingenuity and versatility.

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