DUBAI, renowned across the world for its oil wealth, now wants to forge a reputation for the arts. In recent years, the emirate has built several contemporary art galleries including Artspace and the Mottahedan Projects. Now, construction crews are putting the final touches on a striking building designed by Janus Rostock, a Danish architect. Featuring a protruding roof on top of a window-covered oval building, the edifice is the 2,000-seat Dubai Opera House, in their own words a “radiant centre of culture and arts” in the “shining pearl of The Opera District”.
When a concert hall for classical music is built in a metropolis such as London—as the British government has said it intends to do—it is big news, though mostly to that area’s classical-music lovers. When a city (or city-state) like Dubai, with no history of Western classical music, builds one, it is major news to classical-music lovers and foreign policy analysts alike. It signals soft-power ambition, a desire to be taken seriously in the high-brow world of the arts.
“There are an awful lot of things that go into making a city great,” says Jasper Hope, the house’s chief executive. “But putting a world-class cultural facility right in downtown—of course it’s a statement.” Mr Hope himself is part of that statement; until recently he was chief operating officer of the Royal Albert Hall, the famous London concert hall that each year hosts the popular Proms concerts. It is hoped that the Dubai Opera will continue to attract eminent cultural figures from across the globe—on August 31st, Plácido Domingo, a star tenor, will inaugurate the opera house together with soprano Ana María Martínez and the orchestra from the Trieste opera house in Italy.
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