You can almost hear the smile on Danielle De Niese’s face over the phone. The soprano is getting ready to belt out arias and singles at the Dubai Opera, and her excitement for her UAE debut is palpable. “I’ve always been really curious to come to the UAE and to the see the audiences there and share [my] music with them, and have an exchange of music, which I look forward to, and a couple of future projects. But I wanted to sing a concert for audiences there — it’s my first one that gives people a sense of everything that I can do and shows the audiences all my different musical influences in my life — so [this show is] quite [a wide] ranging programme,” she says ahead of her October 6 performance in an interview with Gulf News tabloid!.
And she’s bringing her A-game — and a very, very extensive oeuvre — to the city. “It almost feels, to me, like two-or-three concerts in one concert,” explains the mother of one. [She and her husband, Glyndebourne owner Gus Christie, have a son, Bacchus Christie. He also has four children from a previous marriage.]
“I’m starting off by singing one of the famous Handel arias that people have associated with my career and my big splash onto the scene when I was younger and I’ll be doing Cleopatra’s arias and some of the other Handel arias from my albums, and then I’ve always been a Mozart singer — so I wanted to do two kinds of different Mozart... opera Mozart and concert Mozart ... and then I’m also going to do an aria that I just debuted this year, which was Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni,” she reels off a list of numbers.
And that’s just the fist half of the show.
“I come back in the second half and we’ll be doing some really quite different repertoire; I do French repertoire; I’ve even going to debut the role of Carmen with orchestra — it’ll be the first time I’ll be singing this role. So I want to do some popular things — and then I’m even moving onto wider repertoire and I’m even doing some musical theatre; some Gershwin ... all of the hits from Sound of Music.”
She concludes: “It’s going to be fun, fun, fun.”
The Australian-American, who had already begun to perform pop music at a national level at the age of eight in Australia, says her introduction to the Classics began with another meeting, one curated by her parents. “My parents found a teacher for me — my mom was the one who found her; it was an exhaustive process to find a teacher who would take on an eight year old — but the reason my parents thought getting me classical training was mainly because I was doing so well at everything that I did as a kid, that they thought, ‘well, we should give her some training so ... she can understand what she does naturally’...that was a pivotal decision that they made and it was those lessons that I took that I fell in love with it.”
And so came the dream to sing opera. But while theatre is not all she excelled in — she was so good at hosting TV programme LA Kids that at 16, she won an Emmy for it — she’s made such an impact on the scene that New York Times magazine once dubbed her “opera’s coolest soprano”.
But as all artists know, there’s no rest for the hard-working. De Niese too has new goals. “Now I dream of making sure that everything that I do artistically puts opera into a more mainstream position. That’s one of the reasons I want to do lots of varied repertoire in my concerts.
“And the other thing I dream of doing is basically continuing to devote more time to all the charity work that I do.”
She has been ambassador for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) since 2015, and heatedly makes a statement about the refugees around the world. “I don’t think refugees should be pulled into political agendas because they don’t have political reasons for fleeing conflict; they are simply fleeing death and destruction.”
She also works with the Prince of Wales and his foundation Children & the Arts, and is a patron of The Prince’s Teaching Institute. “I was fortunate to have parents who supported me and gave me every opportunity but not every child grows up with that level of support from their parents and so next most important person in a child’s life would be a teacher,” she explains.
The soprano also has a number of projects in the pipeline. “I’m developing a few TV projects with BBC, and one of them is about the East and West cultures.” [She’s worked a number of projects with the group, including a documentary called Birth of an Opera, which follows De Niese creating her character for The Barber of Seville, which was performed at Glyndebourne.]
But all of this will come after her maiden show at the Dubai Opera house, and her meeting with IRC partner Dubai Cares’ CEO, Tariq Al Gurg. And of course, the “fun, fun, fun.”
Don’t miss it!
Danielle De Niese performs at the Dubai Opera on October 6. Tickets to the show, which begins at 8pm, start at Dh250.