Exclusive: Van Cleef & Arpels announces partnership with Dubai Opera
Culture meets jewellery couture
J ust weeks before the opening night of the Dubai Opera, Buro 24/7 Middle East's Editor in Chief, Shannon Wylie, sat down with Jasper Hope, CEO of Dubai Opera, and Alessandro Maffi, Managing Director Van Cleef & Arpels, Middle East and India, to discuss the French luxury jewellery label's latest collaboration with Dubai's newest and perhaps one of the most highly-anticipated cultural scenes yet. All while seeing a sneak peek at their coveted ballerinas.
Jasper, you must be extremely busy at the moment...
Yes. I think it's fair to say that it's pretty full on with preparations, not just for me, for the whole team. We're now 75 people as of this morning, with a few more arriving everyday. It's enormously exciting because we're here to welcome the first artists and audiences.
On the 31st of August I'm told...
Yes, it is. Not long.
And, what can we expect at the opening?
Well, the first performance is Plãcido Domingo, along with the entire Trieste opera company, who will take us through the first six nights. Then, we have a couple of days to catch our breath, say goodbye to our Italian artists and say hello to our Russian artists - we have the first ballet production moving in. So, from the word 'go', it's going to be very high intensity in terms of the number of performances, certainly in terms of the range of performances.
Then Les Misérables is on the calendar...
Yes, that's in November. The first four months are packed. I think we have about 70 performances announced so far, which includes ballet, dance, Opera and musical theatre.
Which performance are you most looking forward to seeing?
I think, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne because they have a fantastic history and reputation.
Speaking of ballet, Van Cleef & Arpels have just joined the Dubai Opera as an official partner. Alessandro us about that...
The partnership is so important, especially from our point of view, because everything that Van Cleef & Arpels do or have done (and I'm going back decades and decades) is completely in sync with everything that we want Dubai Opera to be and to stand for.
You're talking about the Van Cleef & Arpels ballet brooches?
To an extent, but it's more than that. The idea behind the best ballet and dance performance is the choreography, the best designs and costumes, sets and productions. It's very similar to what goes into making the most beautiful jewellery and, it's a very easy leap. That's even before you consider the very specific links that Van Cleef & Arpels have had with particular choreographers and particular productions, which have led to particular pieces of jewellery created to represent the world of dance.
Obviously these pieces are quite architectural. Jasper, what is it about the Dubai Opera in terms of its structure that makes it so different or perhaps similar to other Opera houses around the world?
Good question. There are a few different answers. I think Dubai Opera is unique because visually there's nowhere else that looks remotely similar. In fact, there are very, very few buildings of any kind that look like something else. The Dubai Opera takes the form of a dhow, and that is entirely deliberate to signify the history of Dubai and the creek. There are many nautical designs and nautical references too in the floors, on the walls, and in the materials used to construct the building.
Well, The Sydney Opera House has got the sails and we've got the rest of the boat
How does that work with the acoustics? Because that's a huge part of what makes an Opera space so amazing.
To be perfectly honest, it doesn't affect the acoustics in the slightest because all of the maritime references are within the public areas, while the acoustics are in the performance areas. The whole auditorium is designed around the performance, not around the dhow.
And how many performance areas are inside?
It's one main space. Because its 2016, we can use technology to change that room whenever we need to with the use of hydraulics.
Alessandro, tell us about the pieces Van Cleef & Arpels has created for the performing arts...
Van Cleef & Arpels was created in 1906, so in 110 years more than 70 years are linked to the world of dance and ballet. We started in New York, in the '40s, where Claude Bell — the son of our founder — met George Balanchine, and both of them decided to work on a jewellery collection called Jois, which is inspired by he beautiful stones, emerald, rubies and diamonds.
Are you creating any specific pieces for Dubai Opera?
No. We create pieces inspired by the ballet, not for companies. We do creations for the pleasure of the eyes of the clients and the people who love jewellery in general. Our ballerinas, who all have their own names, are created to look like she's dancing in your hand; she's a work of art. Even her little feet wear beautiful diamond ballet shoes.
How many ballerinas are you going to have in the Middle East?
We'll see but we do have plans to host an exhibit inside the Dubai Opera. Collectors from all over the world are looking for these kinds of extraordinary pieces, and usually ballerinas are the most sought after, because not only are they beautiful clips you can wear, but they are also beautiful pieces of art that collectors keep for their private enjoyment.
What's your advice on how to wear a ballerina brooch, because they are quite heavy?!
The challenge is to style them, especially on an abaya. You can also wear them on a belt or a bag depending on the style of the ballerina. We have classical, contemporary and butterfly ballerinas.