In Dubai's Downtown district, under the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, sits a building of wood and glass. Designed to look like the mast of a large ship, the structure seems almost to lean forward, as if longing to touch the impossibly blue waters of the surrounding Burj Lake. This is the Dubai Opera House, the center of music and dance in the heart of an Arabian metropolis.
Before it became a tourist hub, the heart of Dubai was its pearl trade. It were these Emirati fishermen of decades ago that inspired the design of the opera house. This theme is everywhere, with a modern touch - a dhow-inspired sculpture sits in the plaza, a water feature runs alongside the building to give the impression of being at sea, even the VIP boxes inside the auditorium are reminiscent of little boats.
The Dubai Opera House is a beautiful building which uses wood and glass to convey the feeling of being on a large boat. Just look up from in front of the main food and beverage stand and you'll see what's designed to look like the mast of a ship.
The ticket buying experience via the Dubai Opera website is fairly easy to navigate. Tickets are divided into several price categories, which vary depending on the show.
The cheapest are Silver, which are the furthest seats from the stage. Then there are Gold, Premium, VIP, and VIP boxes, which range from 250 AED for 1 person to over 7,000 AED for 8 people. The boxes look lovely but from reviews I've read online, it sounds like the seats are less than comfortable.
Once you select your seats, they are added to your cart (and will still show up even if you close the window), so if you're comparing multiple seating options make sure you look carefully at your total cost before purchasing. To purchase, you will need to set up an account. Your cart can be edited once you create your account, so if you've accidentally added too many tickets to your basket, they can be deleted then.
Once purchased, you can choose to print your tickets yourself, receive a mobile version, or pick them up at the box office, each at no extra cost. I chose print at home, as I was planning to spend the afternoon out and didn't want to risk losing the tickets if my phone battery ran low.
If you run into problems, there is a ticket reprinting desk inside the building - just show them your ID and the staff will re-print them for you.
Keep in mind that if you are unable to attend a show, you cannot sell your tickets to someone else; however, the Dubai Opera website does state that a friend or family member can use your ticket as long as they have a copy of your ID.
CHOOSING THE BEST SEATS
Choosing the best seats at the Dubai Opera depends on your budget and the type of show you plan to see. There are three main seating areas: the Stalls, which are at floor level, the Royal Circle, which is elevated and slightly further back than the stalls, and the Grand Circle, which is the furthest and highest seating area. Keep in mind that seats at the far edges of each section may have obstructed views of the stage.
There are also VIP boxes, which are shaped like small boats and sit elevated at each side of the theater. The boxes look lovely, but from the reviews I've read of them, it sounds like the seats are less than comfortable - instead of regular folding theater seats, the chairs in these boxes are just normal chairs. They also may not have the best views of the stage.
For any shows with subtitles, seats in the Royal or Grand Circles are better than the stalls, as the screen is quite high and you may be straining your neck to see the translations over the course of a full-length show. The higher seats are also fine for concerts, or any other show where you don't mind being further away from the stage.
If you're seeing a play, musical, or opera that you don't need subtitles for, the best seats are in the middle of the Stalls. When we saw Evita, we sat in Row M, seats 33-34 and the aisle seat had a completely unobstructed view all the way to the stage, so I recommend it for anyone who gets annoyed at straining their neck trying to see past the person in the next row.
You can check out this Dubai Opera seating plan for most shows, though keep in mind that it may change. A more specific plan for the show you wish to see should be available during ticket purchase.
There are three main options to get to the Dubai Opera: taking the metro, taking a taxi (or Uber), or driving there yourself. Depending on which area of Dubai you're coming from, a hired car may be cheaper than the 40 dirham parking fee at the venue. I took a taxi and was dropped off in front of the box office, which sits beside the opera house in the plaza.
My partner drove in from work and used the valet service as it was slightly faster than finding a parking spot, but cost a pricey 100 dirhams. We then had to stand in a long line outside to get the car back after the show, which wasn't too bad as the weather was relatively cool, but this might not be ideal in the summer months.
If you're staying near a metro station, this is a great option. The Silver class tickets are the cheapest, though Gold class tickets are sometimes best at peak times, as they're often less packed. Beside the gold cabins, at no extra cost, are special cabins for only women & children. Be aware of the rules of riding though - you could pay a hefty fine for having food & drinks onboard, being a man in the women's cabin, being a silver ticket holder in the gold cabin, etc. Details can be found on the Dubai Metro website.
Whichever method of transportation you choose to take, it's a good idea to get to the theater early since downtown traffic can often be congested and the walk from the closest metro station at Dubai Mall takes around 15-20 mins.
WHAT TO WEAR TO THE DUBAI OPERA
Though the website does say that formal attire is encouraged, there is no official dress code so what you wear at the Dubai Opera is completely up to you. Most people will dress more formally for operas than they will for musicals or plays.
Keep in mind, however you dress, that the UAE is a conservative country and wearing anything too revealing could possibly get you in trouble. Though you'll see tourists and expats around the city wearing short skirts and sleeveless tops, there are many Emiratis who attend the Dubai Opera so it's recommended that you be respectful of their culture.
If you plan to dine at The Loft rooftop restaurant before or after the show, you will be required to be dressed in at least 'smart casual' attire.
There are bars and souvenir stalls on each floor, though the prices are quite high (a bottle of beer and a glass of prosecco cost us 119 AED). They also allow the option to pre-purchase food & drinks for the intermission. We didn't, but the service was quick so we weren't standing in line long.
Note that the ground floor does not serve alcoholic drinks in respect of the prayer room on that level, but the bars on the higher floors do.
On the rooftop is The Loft restaurant (previously Sean Connolly), which features a lovely patio with an open ceiling, through which you can see the top of the Burj Khalifa.
The auditorium of the Dubai Opera house is beautifully designed and the red leather seats were quite comfortable. Every seat seems to be a good one, though the aisle seat we had in the stalls offered a perfect unobstructed view of the stage. It's probably best to sit higher up for foreign language shows to avoid straining your neck, as subtitles are projected quite high.
The acoustics are good to an untrained ear, however the auditorium is designed to be a multifunctional event space as well as an opera theater, so there may have been some compromise made to allow for that.
Outside in the plaza are some very instagrammable sculptures, as well as a water feature called 'Allegro', which was created by the same designer responsible for the lovely fountain show at nearby Dubai Mall. The water feature is turned on an hour or two before the show begins.
We bought tickets to see the touring production of Evita when it came to the Dubai Opera. Though I enjoyed the performance, I was annoyed by the fact that audience members seemed to be coming and going throughout the entire show. Not only is it disrespectful to the actors, it can be very distracting to others who are trying to enjoy the production.
Many of the other theaters I've been to around the world are very strict regarding how they seat latecomers, but for some reason Dubai feels a bit too relaxed, which sadly takes away a bit of enjoyment from the experience.
The production itself was extremely impressive and even with a run time of 2 hours, the seats were comfortable enough that it didn't feel long at all.
For those more interested in architecture than entertainment, guided tours of the opera house can be booked online for 75 AED via the Dubai Opera website. These daytime tours give a great behind-the-scenes look at the theater and provide an interesting commentary from knowledgeable guides. All photos in this post were taken on the official opera house tour.
NOTE: I am not affiliated with the Dubai Opera, nor do I get any compensation for promoting it. Views expressed here are completely my own.
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