Just over a year has passed since the opening of the Gulf region’s first and only opera house in Dubai, while La Perle by Dragone’s spectacular aqua-theatre debut at the end of August 2017 confirmed its place in the history books as the Emirate’s first permanent theatre performance.
Dubai Opera’s Chief Executive Officer Jasper Hope, said the downtown Dubai venue has quickly become the UAE’s foremost performing arts destination and one known increasingly on the international scene – but not without its fair share of challenges.
“Dubai was previously known for many incredible achievements but few in the live performance sector,” said Hope, a speaker at next month’s Events, Technology and Entertainment Development Forum during the Prolight + Sound Middle East exhibition in Dubai.
“The most significant challenge therefore has been to attract the best artists from such a wide range of genres to excite and entertain audiences here. That’s not easy to do in established venues but in new ones it’s always going to take more time and persuasion at the beginning. It’s for others to judge but our view is that we’ve certainly overcome that challenge and have delivered a first year programme featuring 50 events with more than 2,000 artists with which we’re exceptionally proud.”
Hope is part of a panel discussion at the two-day Events, Technology and Entertainment Development Forum, about delivering world-class events, from movie premieres and classical shows to international sports events and megastar music concerts.
He said Dubai’s live entertainment scene is as exciting as it has ever been, adding: “As the appeal of streaming services has grown, so has the live entertainment side of the industry with audiences increasingly valuing live experiences. As someone who’s passionate about live events, I can certainly see that trend continuing for as long as there are great artists that people want to see.”
Taking place from 17-18 October at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Events, Technology and Entertainment Development Forum is a key focal point of Prolight + Sound Middle East, the region’s foremost trade fair dedicated to technologies and services for the entertainment, events, creation and media industries.
Other panelists joining Hope on the opening day include Thomas Ovesen, the CEO of 117 Live, which is responsible for organising concerts with stars such as Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, and Ed Sheeran; and Craig Hartenstine, Executive Producer at La Perle by Dragone.
Comprising a 1,300 seated theatre, 2.7 million litres of water, 65 international artists, and more than 450 performances every year, La Perle by Dragone combines breath-taking visuals, heart-stopping acrobatic performances, and a wholly-immersive use of water.
Hartenstine said Dubai was a fitting stage to produce such an ambitious project: “Dubai is, as Franco Dragone often says, the ‘Laboratory of the Future’; it’s a city that has the ambition and the courage to create something that has never been seen before, as with La Perle. Dubai has such a rich and vibrant history, but it’s the rapid progression towards technology and innovation that makes it a story that must be told.
Added Hartenstine: “There were a number of challenges that we had to overcome in delivering La Perle, as can be expected when you are building a theatre with technology so advanced that hadn’t been used before. Being an aqua theatre, we’re also working with water, a very temperamental element, but we’ve managed to overcome the obstacles to create the most spectacular show around to date.
“La Perle is a perfect example of thinking outside the box. You can’t get more of a juxtaposition than putting an aqua-show in the middle of a desert. La Perle represents a new era for the region and Dubai is a perfect example of never settling for second best or being complacent.”
Live operas and theatre performances are one thing, but major concerts and touring circuits present a whole new set of challenges. Ovesen has promoted shows in Dubai with the likes of Shakira, Aerosmith, One Direction, Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart, Stone Roses, and Mariah Carey.
He said that authorities are actively seeking to address key challenges in delivering concerts, particularly around establishing more purpose-built venues and traffic infrastructure.
“In the past, we’ve had to build our own venue to find a space where we could – through higher than usual volume and frequency of events and investment in ‘permanent’ infrastructure – bring down the cost per event to minimise the challenging margins such events carry in our market,” said Ovesen.
“For a big tour to play in Dubai, it will have to abandon the cheaper truck transportation and ability to move between revenue earning events over night as they do in Europe or North America, to costly air freight and multiple hotel nights here for only one night of a revenue generating activity.
“However Dubai is the ultimate hub of the region in particular when it comes to entertainment and is by far the city most fans prefer to travel to for a bit of fun and excitement. We just need to get the purpose built venues put in place and more public transportation options for fans to be able to experience hassle free large scale events on a regular basis.
“As the last missing piece in the hospitality and entertainment sector puzzle, both issues will be dealt with soon and the authorities here are certainly aware of and in support of such developments,” added Ovesen.
The Events, Technology and Entertainment Development Forum at Prolight + Sound Middle East 2017 will feature more than 35 speakers, and brings together leading government stakeholders and experts to discuss trends and strategies in developing iconic attractions and industry partnerships that drive long-term success.
The conference commences with a panel discussion with Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, H.E Saif Saeed Ghobash, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, and Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).
The three UAE tourism Chiefs will discuss what factors are instrumental in shaping cultural projects from a government perspective, with entertainment and culture underpinning the tourism offering.
“It’s vitally important for venue operators and event developers and promoters looking to capitalise on the region’s enormous potential, to be current with the latest strategies in event organising, promotion and marketing in order to compete with the best in the world,” said Ahmed Pauwels, CEO of Messe Frankfurt Middle East, the organiser of Prolight + Sound Middle East.
“The Events Creation and Entertainment Development Forum – with its specialised focus on the latest trends and developments in the field – will provide vital learning opportunities for regional industry representatives, while also presenting an important interactive platform to network with leading experts in the field.”
Now in its 2nd edition, Prolight + Sound Middle East 2017 will feature more than 40 exhibitors from 11 countries representing 120-plus brands, including Robe, Bose, FBT, GTD Lighting, Monacor International, Procom Middle East, Prolyte Gorup, Venuetech, and Lavoce.
The three-day event, from 17-19 October 2017, will feature for the first time the Dante Certification Training programme, providing an easy way for system designers, engineers and other industry professionals to learn about the Dante digital media networking systems, with in-depth training and promote their expertise. It will also return with Stage On!, the live demo area where visitors get an up close look and feel of the latest professional AV equipment in action from leading brands.
Prolight + Sound Middle East is the fifth instalment of the international network of Prolight + Sound events worldwide, and is co-located with Light Middle East 2017, the region’s dedicated exhibition, conference, and awards for lighting design and technology.