Bésame mucho, Placido Domingo: Iconic tenor opens Dubai Opera House
Domingo outside the Dubai Opera House. (Facebook)
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Opera is designed to bring out emotions in those who watch it, and on Wednesday evening in Downtown Dubai, the overriding sentiment was one of excitement as the city, and the country, welcomed its first opera house.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was one of the first visitors as the nearly 2,000 well-dressed attendees arrived at the first night of Dubai Opera, a dhow-shaped building jutting out next to Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.
Shaikh Mohammad at the opening of the Dubai Opera. He was accompanied by Shaikh Maktoum Bin Mohammad and Mohammad Alabbar, Emaar chairman. (WAM)
In a city of superlatives, it was no surprise the Opera's CEO Jasper Hope called on Placido Domingo, one of the world's top tenors, to inaugurate the building.
The show started almost on time, despite heavy traffic on Mohammad Bin Rashid Boulevard that saw many people abandon their taxis and walk to the venue.
Domingo, 78, took to the stage just after 8pm, performing a wide-raging programme that opened with an orchestral, Richard Wagner's overture from Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg, an ode to the craft of music-making.
Trieste's Verdi Orchestra performed throughout.
Cries of "bravo!" rang out as Domingo finished Nemico della patria,from Umberto Giordano's Andrea Chenier.
Three pieces by Verdi - two from La traviata and one from Il Trovatore, followed, before he swung into musical theatre, with songs from My Fair Lady, South Pacific and West Side Story.
Oliver Drews, from Germany, was one of those calling out bravos as Domingo and soprano Ana Maria Martinez took their bows at the interval.
He said he's seen Domingo nearly 50 times, that the Spaniard was "in a good mood".
"Congratulations to Dubai," he told Gulf News from his seat in the Royal Box, the first story of seating, "on the marvellous opera house and sensational opening. You could not ask for a better star. The sound is marvellous."
Indeed, the acoustics, as heard from the Royal Box, are crisp and clear. Each instrument stands out, and the vocals, whether soft or booming, reached the audience's ears with clarity.
After the main portion of the show ended, Domingo was showered with flowers as he told the audience that Dubai Opera is an important cultural centre. He encouraged everyone to bring their families.
He then brought on a Dubai resident, a soprano that was the first winner of his opera competition two decades ago. She also performed, and beautifully so.
Many guests on the night were there as much for Domingo's rich vocals as to be a part of the historic proceedings.
Graziela Martins was attending with her mother, a music teacher, and said after living in the Middle East for 20 years, witnessing the opening of Dubai Opera is "a dream come true".
"To see so much passion and dedication to create a state of the art venue, it's the icing on the cake to have my favourite artist in the world on opening night."
There were also opera newbies. Taim Al Falasi said it was "an honour" to attend. "I'm not that familiar with it but it's good to see how it feels. I've been in Paris and this is taking the opera to a whole new level. It's modern. This is such a big step for Dubai."
The Opera's first season will have at least 200 performances, of which 75 have been announced. Thursday night sees a performance of The Pearl Fishers.
By Natalie Long