Opera in the Gulf: The beacon of change

The opera houses in Dubai and Kuwait are the light and the light indeed came from the Gulf

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
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Close to Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Opera House decorates the city. It was designed by the UK office of Atkins, an architectural company, and was a product of the creative mind of Janus Rostock.

When I went there for the first time, I met an academic friend who once admonished me about an article I wrote eight years ago entitled: “Maybe the light can come from the Gulf” which was about Dubai’s groundbreaking experience. He told me that he has moved to Dubai for work. The classical building is equipped with the latest audio and visual technologies that teleports the audience to the old classical movies, with a hint of originality that brings to mind the quote of Antonín Dvořák - “Opera is the embodiment of the whole society on a stage of visual and auditory drama.” The building embodies the essence of Opera, the synergy between music and Greek drama makes the whole world become a stage. Events convert to dramatic stories. Emotions are poetry written with ink and blood, taking the audience back to the time of early Greek dramatists like Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus, transporting us to the cradle of music, where entire existence is summarized on a stage, where men can cry or dance.

In conjunction with the Dubai Opera House, an opera house was recently inaugurated in Kuwait. These cultural and artistic monuments reflect the level of political and social will for stability and peace. The first opera house was built in Venice in 1637, whiles the Hamburg Opera in Germany was built in 1678. Opera is an assortment of music and drama depending on the evolution of societies and the evolution of time. Nazir Jezmati, an Opera observant and connoisseur with an authoritative book under his belt, says that “singers, composers and the rest of the opera world who carried their art to different parts of Europe and witnessed the golden age of the 17th century give privilege to the musical side of the opera over the dramatic side, Alessandro Scarlatti was one of the proponents of this ideology.”

The opera houses in Dubai and Kuwait are the light and the light indeed came from the Gulf

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714 - 1787) led a second revolution when he balanced between the two. Gluck is considered to be the father of Verdi, Wagner and Debussy who are the geniuses of the opera world. With the outbreak of the French revolution in late 18th century, national and romantic themes replaced the generalities of drama. Music started to draw from popular movements, Mozart became the epitome of Jean Jacques Rousseau, while Beethoven, Rossini and Donizetti grew into revolutionaries.

Opera houses are not built for public speaking, or a platform to entertain, or a stage to play music and classics. It is an entire consciousness that paints political and intellectual dialogues, and establishes a communal vision of reality and the world that we can’t separate from popular movements. Opera legend Pavarotti sang folk art and opera alike and promoted Italian popular Opera in Europe and the United States. Opera instilled new concepts and created theatrical tools and linguistic methods. The opera is a witness to space and existence. It is a part of the eternal dialogue between man and existence, in the words of Nietzsche: “the quiet words attract the hurricane.”

The musical sentences, the bridges of Opera and the artistic theater all embrace the history of people. Wars left a mark on the musical repertoire of Germany. Nietzsche employed German music to criticize history with the hammer of genealogy when he analyzed European psychology and German music in his book “Beyond Good and Evil,” wondering “where are the good old glorious days, they faded with the music of Mozart, we are lucky to have Rococo , his sweet company, his mad enthusiasm, the Chinese humor and decoration, because of the kindness of his heart, his belief in the south, his tender eagerness , his love to dance still conquer our hearts …. we will forever have a love for Beethoven. Beethoven’s birth marked history, he wasn’t the last chapter in a European fashion that lasted for centuries, and he is … the combination of weakness and strength.”

Opera can tell stories. Instrumental music, the darkness of history and music document political history and exceptional revolutions. Opera is political history, revolutions and popular uprisings. The opera houses in Dubai and Kuwait are the light and the light indeed came from the Gulf.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on November 3, 2016.

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Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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