First Arab-produced opera premieres in Qatar

Billed as the first opera to be written and produced by Arabs, Avicenna has premiered in Qatar amid a lavish drive to place the gas-rich Gulf state on the cultural map.

    Qatar's ruler Amir Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani attended

    "It was written in Arabic and for Arabs in an Arab country" said author Ahmad al-Dosari after the open-air performance on Sunday night in English of the philosophical 10th century tale of kingship, treason and love.


    "You will see it performed next week in Arabic with Arabic singers," al-Dosari said after the performance in the Qatari capital Doha.


    Avicenna is the Latin name for Ibn Sina, born in Bukhara in 980 AD and whose encyclopaedic works mainly in Arabic bridged east and west in the fields of medicine, mathematics, astronomy and philosophy.


    Universal role


    Al-Dosari, information director at Qatar's sprawling Education City, said he wanted to stress the universal role of opera through the story of Avicenna whose "books were read by Europeans and Arabs alike 1000 years ago".


    "Opera has no nationality, no country. It's universal, this is our message," he said.


    With Qatar’s ruler Amir Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his wife Shaikha Muza in attendance, the premiere was a grand affair set on a massive stage of gold and silver Arabesque shapes before an invitation-only audience of some 1000 at a desert fort.


    "We hope that opera will one day be part of our musical tradition here in Doha," said al-Dosari, who has written some 20 books including poetry, fiction and drama in Arabic and French.


    "Gas and petrol will one day be finished, but the city will still be there, it's our fortune"

    Ahmad al-Dosari
    information director,
    Education City, Qatar

    A huge international orchestra and choir assembled to interpret the music composed by pianist Michiel Borstlap of the Netherlands directed by Italy's Atilio de Colonello and produced by Egyptian Abdul al-Rabeeh.


    "Michiel has written something poetic, moving and energetic," said Colonello. The latter it certainly was as early horse battles raged around the fort, and romantic too under a rising half moon.


    "It was invitational only, not for the public," explained al-Dosari. "When we did Aida two years ago in the national stadium, it was full." An evening with Italian tenor Luciano Pavrotti attracted a full house in Doha earlier this year too.


    "We will do it (Ibn Sina) later for the public and you will see everybody will come, we want everybody to come to see it," al-Dosari said.


    The opera is part of a series of festivities to mark the opening of the Qatar Foundation's Education City.


    "The Education City is the greatest fortune of Qatar," al-Dosari added. "Gas and petrol will one day be finished, but the city will still be there, it's our fortune."


    The project, which will cover a total area of three million square metres, is to be inaugurated Monday evening. 




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