Van Cleef & Arpels’ stunning jewels are set to add sparkle to Dubai’s shining pearl of the Opera District

Were it to have been built in any other of the world’s major cities, the opening of a new opera house would provoke comment and debate about little more than its architecture and musical programme. In Dubai, a city with precious little track record for world-class dance and classical music, the September opening of Dubai Opera has prompted talk of cultural soft-power and the Emirate’s desire to finally be taken seriously in the high-brow world of the arts.

Dubai Opera have certainly gone about it the right way. They’ve attracted an exemplary team – headed by chief executive Jasper Hope – to run the Opera House, they’ve created waves throughout the region by forming collaborations with a number of key artistic and commercial partners, and are set to launch a highly commendable cultural programme.

On the eve of Dubai Opera’s opening, Selections met with Hope and with Alessandro Maffi, who, as managing director of Van Cleef & Arpels Middle East and India, has overseen the distinguished French jeweller’s move to become Dubai Opera’s exclusive sponsor for dance and ballet.

It’s a natural development for Van Cleef & Arpels. Long are its links to ballet – the Maison’s first ballerina clips were created in New York in the 1940s at the express request of Louis Arpels, a great ballet and opera lover. Today it is a prize partner with the prestigious FEDORA opera and ballet awards.

Maffi is effusive in his praise of the forthcoming partnership. “Dubai Opera is a fantastic project – it represents the future of Dubai, and for the Maison it represents a wonderful opportunity to play an active role in this future,” he says. “We feel like pioneers.”

Hope is equally enthusiastic. “There are many reasons we are excited about the collaboration with Van Cleef & Arpels,” he confides. “Principally, everything the Maison stands for in regard to exquisite and very fine jewellery represents so many of the same things as the greatest ballet and the greatest dance performance. It’s all about beauty, elegance and style. It’s about the very sophisticated, refined, feminine nature of the jewellery pieces and of the dance.”

For Maffi, the involvement with Dubai Opera is just one of a series of cultural and social initiatives he’s driving in the U.A.E. and across the region. He’s keen to see the Maison give back to society from an educational point of view. Projects in Abu Dhabi and Dubai – notably the forthcoming arrival of Van Cleef & Arpels’ L’Ecole in October – their involvement in Jeddah 2129 and Jeddah Art, as well as a slew of commitments in Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait stand testament to sharing the Parisian jeweller’s traditions and passions from a non-commercial perspective.

The premiere season opens with Coppélia and Giselle, neither of which are obvious choices as first shows, particularly given the lack of ballet heritage in the city. However, Hope’s choices are inspired titles and are certain to be presented as wonderful productions.

The link to Van Cleef & Arpels will be ever-present throughout the season, with videos and exhibitions planned to dovetail in with each performance.

With both Hope and Maffi energised at the prospect of their new partnership, there will be one true winner who benefits from the enrichment of their combined experiences – Dubai’s eager dance and ballet audiences.

by Anastasia Nysten

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Collectors Issue #38, pages 104-107.