Opera's Resurgence in the Middle East

May 6, 2014

Dubai's planned Opera HouseOpera Grand is just a giant residential project in Dubai, but it's located in the Opera District, a new cultural hub being built by India's Emaar company, one of the Gulf's largest real estate developers. Before we get to the opera part, consider the statistics:

Opera Grand is a 66-story residential tower, with over 200 luxuriously appointed two, three, and four-bedroom apartments. They overlook Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Fountain, and Dubai Opera, a 2,000-seat multiformat venue for opera, theater, concerts, art exhibitions, orchestra, film, sports events, and seasonal programs.

As iconic in appearance, says the sales brochure, as the Sydney Opera House, Dubai Opera is styled on the traditional sailing vessels of the Arabian Gulf. The bow of the structure will contain Dubai Opera’s main stage, orchestra, and seating areas, as well as the proposed sky garden and restaurants.

If you're interested in an Opera Grand apartment, the sales launch commences on May 10 in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Singapore, "first-registered, first-served."

If you're interested in opera itself, especially with a local angle, here's that: just 260 miles south of Dubai is Oman and its Royal Opera House in Muscat, run by former San Francisco Opera artistic administrator Christina Scheppelmann. Before taking that job two years ago, she was director of artistic operations for Washington National Opera for nine years.

Her company in Oman is currently producing Rusalka, presented by the Janáček Opera of the National Theatre Brno, to be followed by The Lights of Andalusia, a flamenco-based concert from "Arabo Andulusian civilizations."

Oman Royal Opera House Director General Christina Scheppelmann and her inexpensive Maserati; gas there is $1.20 a gallonThe last season had Aida, La bohème, Simon Boccanegra, and Madama Butterfly; as well as concerts by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, jazz programs, and the music of Oman.

Scheppelmann's blog is a mother lode of information about Oman and the travels of an opera executive around the world. And then, there is her report on the best place to buy a 2002 Maserati Cambiocorsa for $18,000:

Cars are not too expensive here. Given the buying power in the area and with expats rotating through so frequently there are many luxury and high end used cars on the market at very reasonable prices. The Royal Omani Police drive Mercedes! I saw 3 Lamborghinis in a 2 week span! BMW, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Bentley, etc. are frequent sights on the roads here. There are plenty more practical vehicles, too, of course, Japanese, American and European makes. The roads are in excellent condition in most places and there's no road salt to speed corrosion, so the luxury cars are all in great shape and typically have low mileage.

This is all by way of saying ... a colleague and I are now the proud co-owners of a Maserati! More formally: a Maserati Cambiocorsa 4200, make 2002, 8 cylinders, 400 horsepower. This was the first Maserati made after Ferrari purchased the company so the engine is a Formula 1 Ferrari engine.

I was going to buy it just by myself, but considering that I won't drive it every day, that some repairs will be needed over time on an 11-year old sports car and that my colleague, our Technical Director Geoff, loves old cars and has technical and mechanical car experience, I took his offer to go in on it with me. Overall it seemed convenient and comforting to me to have a car geek as co-owner of such high-powered vintage race car.

We paid less than $18,000 for our Maserati; yearly insurance: $500, no property tax, a nominal registration fee, gas: $17 for 14 gallons. This makes it relatively affordable to own such car here in Oman. I doubt I could ever do this anywhere else, so here it is, the "red beauty."

Included in: Music News: May 6, 2014