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Rock and pop to aid the Dubai Opera business model

Rock and pop to aid the Dubai Opera business model

The 2,000 seats are expected to be filled on a regular basis, says CEO


Dubai Opera will deliver profits as well as great art because the diversity of performers – including regular unplugged shows from rock and pop stars such as Eric Clapton and Adele – will mean there is “something for everybody”, filling the 2,000 seats on a regular basis, the attraction’s chief executive officer has told Gulf Business.

Speaking after the announcement of the inaugural programme, Jasper Hope admitted the tough global economic environment and the competitive range of entertainment options on offer in Dubai meant there was little margin for error.

“Nobody should ever consider this a dead cert,” he said. “It is extremely challenging. This is 2016 so there are business imperatives that run through all strands of commercial life. Basically, most things need to live or die by their performance. That is true in an artistic sense and a financial sense.

“I don’t do shows I don’t expect to sell out. You don’t have to be right every single night on every show, but you have to be right nearly all of the time. You have to listen to your audience and if you get the show, artist, programme, time of year, ticket price or any other metric wrong then technically you are not at 100 per cent of sales.

“If you get a few of them wrong, you can be down to 50 or 60 per cent. If you go below that, you are in a different ballpark altogether. In reality, you have to aim for 80 to 90 per cent of shows to sell out.”

Asked how wide the “any sort of music” umbrella reached for performances at the venue, the former chief operating officer of the Royal Albert Hall, in London, responded: “We are talking about rock and pop, and not just of the western variety but Arabic too. I don’t think stadium rock would be appropriate in a space this intimate. But take a stadium act and do it acoustically, then no problem.

“There are many examples in theatre-sized buildings of unplugged sessions by non-classical and non-musical theatre performers. Will we do those? Yes, absolutely no question about it. In a society this diverse and cosmopolitan, you have to give everybody something they want. Not everyone likes Eric Clapton or Adele, but are these people targets and would we like them to perform on our stage? Of course we would.

“At the Royal Opera House in London, I’ve seen the likes of Elton John, George Michael and Björk play. At the Albert Hall, we did David Gilmour and Morrissey. There is nothing wrong with using a classical venue for amplified sound. Venues are there to be used, not to stand empty.”

Revealing that ticket prices for most shows would range between Dhs 250 to Dhs 950, Jasper insisted the cost of visiting the “completely unique in the United Arab Emirates” opera house would be around the same as going out for dinner.

He added: “Not every night is going to be highbrow classical opera that people may or may not be familiar with. With our diverse programme, we will spread any potential risk there is. These things are fluid and we all have to fit in with general economic conditions.

“In tough times, people do look more closely at how they spend their disposable income and you obviously need to recognise that. However, if something is truly special but within reach in an affordability sense and your soul can be lifted once in a while by going to a concert or an opera then you will I hope include that in your mix of activities.

“Even if people are watching the pennies, our offering will be attractive. For some, this is not a luxury but very much a part of keeping on top of your life in terms of cultural experiences. You might just do it a little less often but you will still go.”


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