The Dubai Opera House is taking shape close to Burj Khalifa in Downtown Dubai. It will open on August 31. Image Credit: Clint Ebert/Gulf News

Dubai: Spanish opera tenor Placido Domingo will perform the first show on August 31 at Dubai Opera, a 2,000-person capacity multi-purpose venue in Downtown Dubai. This will be part of 49 initial events that will continue throughout the year.

“The variety of what this building can do is second to none,” said chief executive Jasper Hope (left), speaking to Gulf News on Tuesday morning.

“We have opera from Italy, we have ballet from Russia, we have Flamenco from Spain. We have Hussain Al Jasmi who’s Emirati, we have Anoushka Shankar from India playing her amazing sitar. We have orchestras from Vienna, we have a magic show, we have an ice show.”

More events will be announced this year outside of the first wave. Tickets will range between Dh200 and Dh1,250, depending on the event, and will go on sale on April 24, at 9am, from dubaiopera.com. According to Hope, the idea was to provide an accessible experience.

“Not everybody has Dh200, but in terms of an entertainment offer, that is extremely good value for what you’re going to get. Experience-wise and artist-wise, to be able to go even at (Dh)300 or (Dh)400, frankly, is a very good ideal, I would suggest,” he said.

Hope, 47, has been in Dubai for nearly a year-and-a-half working on the venue, which broke ground in 2013. Before that, he was the COO of the Royal Albert Hall in London, which has a capacity of over 5,000 seats and is one of the busiest venues in the world. There, they averaged 400 shows a year.

“It remains to be seen whether we can get up to 400 in Dubai. Over time, as the tourist numbers increase, as the number of people who are residents here increases, I think we can definitely do that,” said Hope. “But if we can start at around 200, 250 in the first year or two, I’d be very happy with that.”

No particular demographic is being catered to. (“Everybody — regardless of age, gender, nationality — everybody likes some kind of music … If it’s not music, it’ll be dramatic theatre or a comedian,” said Hope.) Depending on ticket sales and audience demand, organisers will determine what to do more of — and what to do less of.

“This is a cultural hub, a centre of the arts. You can’t scientifically plan everything. You have to let it evolve naturally … The worst thing would be me just dictating, ‘We are going to have 20 per cent opera, and 10 per cent ballet, and 5 per cent Arabic’, or whatever. That would be ridiculous. I have to give people everything and see what they want.”

The venue aims to deliver a “world class” experience which, Hope admits, is a subjective term. To him, it means that Dubai Opera will be comparable in quality to established venues around the globe — whether it comes down to how comfortable your seat is, how close you are to the stage or what the acoustics sound like.

“The people we have coming to perform are way, way, way above the norm. The experience we will give our audiences who come and enjoy whichever night they fancy, whatever suits their personal subjective taste, will be way, way above the norm that you would get at a normal night out in a normal city. This is Dubai,” he said.

Hope, whose mother is a music agent and whose brother is violinist Daniel Hope, remembers going to his first big pop show in his early teens.

“I went to see Billy Joel in about 1981 or 1982 at Wembley [Arena in London], and the scale of that show for a 12-, 13-year-old, just blew me away,” said Hope.

“From then, I didn’t stop. I started going to shows — not just pop after that. That’s why I feel so privileged to work someplace like this, because I’m not pigeonholing myself or the people of Dubai into ‘It’s just opera’ or ‘it’s just ballet’ or ‘it’s just pop’. It’s everything. There’s only one of these [venues]. I’m not anticipating another one anytime soon. This needs to cater to everybody.”

Hope says that he’s most excited to see Al Jasmi perform; the 36-year-old Emirati is the only artist out of the 49 booked so far that he’s never seen in concert.

“I’ve seen him on video, I know who he is, [but] I have never heard him live. That excites me. Anybody who’s that popular in any market sphere that I have not heard live [and] I have not had the opportunity to enjoy … that’s the one I want to go and see. I’m kind of the same in restaurants. If I haven’t eaten it and I’ve heard it’s amazing, that’s the one I want. Doesn’t matter what I actually like the most — that’s the one I want,” he said.

Looking to the future, Hope is keeping an open mind. With feedback from the people at large, he hopes to strike a long-term chord with Dubai Opera.

“I don’t know everything. I don’t know every single artist or even every art form. I don’t speak every language,” said Hope.

“I need to understand, culturally, what other people in somewhere this culturally diverse want. I’m waiting for them to keep telling me — and I’m sure they will.”