By Rafiq Vayani
DUBAI: In a cultural milestone for the UAE, Expo 2020 Dubai has commissioned the nation’s first opera. Combining Emirati and global talent, Al Wasl will span thousands of years, bringing to life the UAE’s rich heritage and sharing its innovative spirit with the world.
Award-winning composer Mohammed Fairouz and author and librettist Maha Gargash, both UAE nationals, will provide the music and dialogue respectively for the opera, whose name means ‘the connection’ in Arabic and references the historic name for Dubai. The narrative will explore the nation’s Bedouin roots and the UAE as a forward-thinking modern multi-cultural hub.
Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Dubai Expo 2020 Bureau, said: “Expo 2020 supports the UAE’s wider innovation strategy, which aims to create a lasting positive impact on society. We are proud to highlight Emirati culture and talent through this pioneering opera, which supports the nation’s flourishing arts industry. We are excited to showcase a landmark moment in the UAE’s cultural history to the world.”
The two-hour production is being created in partnership with Welsh National Opera and will premiere in October next year at Dubai Opera, aligning with the official opening of Expo 2020. Performed in both Arabic and English, it will feature more than 100 artists and musicians as well as a production team of 70 professionals.
The opera will also have a comprehensive education and outreach component, providing a series of creative initiatives including masterclasses, casting opportunities and open dress rehearsals, as well as certified courses in costume design, stage make-up and theatrical wig design.
Renowned for his operatic works Sumeida’s Song, The New Prince and Bhutto, Mohammed Fairouz is known for his large-scale compositions that engage geopolitical and philosophical themes. He has been hailed byThe New York Times as “an important new artistic voice” and by BBC World News as “one of the most talented composers of his generation”.
Maha Gargash is acclaimed for her novels That Other Me and The Sand Fish, as well as her perceptive documentaries that focus on Emirati culture.
Composer Mohammed Fairouz, said: “In the UAE, we find inspiration in the present by looking to our history with pride and our future with hope. I feel blessed and honoured to be composing an opera in collaboration with Expo 2020, and am excited to showcase this unprecedented work at Dubai Opera next year. Al Wasl shines a light on the rich history of our people and nation, and how we embrace the whole world with humanity and generosity.”
Expo 2020 will be a significant entertainment and cultural hub in its own right, offering more than 60 live performances a day over 173 days across multiple stages including the magnificent Al Wasl Plaza, which is at the heart of the site.
Expo organisers expect to attract 25 million visits between 20 October, 2020 and 10 April, 2021, and 70 per cent of its visitors are projected to come from outside the UAE – the largest proportion of international visitors in the 168-year history of World Expos. More than 200 participants, including countries, corporations, multinational organisations and educational institutions, will gather to explore Expo 2020’s theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.