Dubai – Grammy-nominated composer and painter Ella Spira MBE presented a multi-sensory theatrical experience at the Dubai Opera to commemorate the UAE’s Golden Jubilee
As the UAE commemorates its soaring Golden Jubilee, the National Day celebrations are far from over. The country continues to be painted in hues of red, green, white and black in the context of reflecting on the past 50 years while also taking a look at its forward plans for the centenary. While there has been plenty to celebrate in every nook and cranny of the city, in the midst of these ceremonies is also a multisensory theatrical experience that took place in the city’s modern art center – Dubai opera house.
The city’s main performing arts center hosts a unique art series, 50 for 50, which features 50 UAE landscape paintings composed by Grammy-nominated composer and painter Ella Spira, who spends her time between Dubai and London. The unique multimedia exhibition captures the sound of the United Arab Emirates, bringing together a unique blend of paintings and music inspired by the region’s natural landscapes, in honor of the Year of the 50th. Embracing the country’s natural heritage and celebrating it through a distinct gaze – a gaze that infuses a stranger’s perspective with lived experiences – the artwork is the culmination of Ella’s travels to the Arab Emirates United.
Ella, the oldest of six siblings, grew up in a home surrounded by art. With both parents being artists, discipline towards the arts was an early inclination for the artist. âI started playing the piano at the age of six. Since then, I have been very attached to music. My grandmother quotes that when I was about three years old, I danced and sang Sleeping Beauty. I loved Tchaikovsky, âsaid Ella, adding that her grandfather, who was Jewish from Poland, was also a composer and conductor. So, was music a nature or a culture? âI think it’s probably both. I’m careful how I talk about this, but I think being a third generation Holocaust survivor motivated my need to give a voice to cultures that I believe currently don’t have as much. voices on the international live entertainment scene. I believe that the arts hold the greatest power for positive change, âadded the UK-based composer.
The 50 For 50 series at the Dubai Opera concludes with the world premiere of Daughters of the Wind Overture, a Sisters Grimm film, which is a theatrical production company co-founded by the composer and former ballerina of the Royal Ballet Pietra From Mello-Pittman. âPietra and I co-founded Sisters Grimm in 2009, with the vision of breaking all the rules when it comes to theatrical creation. Together, we produce these large-scale theatrical works that give voice to different cultures. We have now been developing the Arab World Show in the region for two years, âsaid the multi-award-winning composer, who recently received an MBE (Most Excellent Order in the British Empire) for her contributions to commerce. international and the creative industry as a co-founder of Sisters Grimm.
While developing the Arab World exhibit, she had explored the country and visited different parts of the country “which we certainly weren’t well known for,” Ella said. This is how the concept of the 50 for 50 was born. The whole experience is visually and audibly immersive because each musical score has been specifically adapted and created for each painting. The film, directed by Jhenyfy Muller, is based on a story by Stephen Powell, starring co-founder Pietra performing Ballet on musical compositions also starring vocalists DB Gad (co-composer) and Madyan Hamza, singing in English and in Arabic.
Having worked across the globe for decades creating art and music, Ella has found several similarities linking different cultures through strong ties rather than being a divisive discourse. âWe have worked on every continent except Antarctica,â she laughs. âAnd you don’t even have to speak the same language to understand parts of different cultures that can be so similar to yours. Music has given me a gateway to understanding different cultures. I don’t need to be able to communicate verbally with people. I communicate through music, âsaid the composer, adding:â I’m British, I’m white and I’m Jewish and my collaborator here is Egyptian and we cross cultural boundaries when it comes to creating music. art.
The composer added: âI am not blind to the fact that being British and white does not automatically mean that I come from a privileged place. There should also be some responsibility to use this privilege conscientiously and for the right reasons. “
At a time when cultural wars are taking root in the art landscape, should artists be more careful to fight against the risks of cultural appropriation? When asked if she was making a conscious effort not to cross those boundaries, she replied, âEspecially at this time, this is a very important question. It has become a trend to make cultural collaborations. But Pietra and I have been doing this since 2009. And even before that I was working with African artists and Arab artists. Ella added that having grown up in a diverse community in Gloucester, these collaborations have been organic from a young age.
But what is crucial for the composer, when it comes to cultural collaborations, is to always approach them from a place where he devotes a considerable amount of time to be there, surrounded by the people of the region. âWhat’s also important is that we don’t try to take an existing tale and just tell it. I think it would be cultural appropriation and maybe the theft of history. I don’t think it’s fair. We’ve created our own story that’s inspired by the people we’ve met here. It was developed through collaboration with people we have met during our travels and experiences in the country, âElla added.
The screening of the film that concludes the artistic series is part of Act II of the Great Arab World Show that Sisters Grimm has been developing for over four years, to create a full-fledged theatrical production that tells the story of the Emirates on a plate. -international form. . âThere is enormous potential here for artists who come from the United Arab Emirates and showcase their talent on the international stage. We’re building a large-scale team, to work with the talent here to get into our usual format of musicals and live performances, all over the West End to China, âthe composer said.
When asked if long-running art and entertainment coincided with changing audiences’ palates featuring shorter attention spans accustomed to excessively staring at 30-second reels, the composer expressed concern towards an art economy driven by social media trends. âI think that’s pretty dangerous because being able to create something that looks great in 30 seconds, or a minute or even two minutes, which is ‘long’ by social media standards and results in content. digital interesting, doesn’t mean that it actually represents an art form that is going to have a legacy.
âWhat we don’t realize is that this is all very transient. In 10 years, everything would have changed again. So instead of focusing on things that stand the test of time and have a legacy that will count, all the attention is here, âadded Ella.
âEven 100 years from now, the goal should be to leave something behind that people can look back and not only recognize people, but also learn something about their culture and where we are at that time. It’s something that can’t be possible with shorthand social media content, âElla said.
According to figures provided by the Broadway League to Forbes, the industry declared its busiest year in Broadway history for 2019, with 90.51% of its seats occupied, for a total of $ 1.757 billion. âWhile day by day, every moment, people’s attention spans have become shorter, they still come to see Bond movies, like a big party. Shakespeare is still played and celebrated. Just before the pandemic hit, Broadway was at its peak. So I don’t think that at any time long-term entertainment will become redundant, âconcluded the British artist.
The free multisensory theatrical experience celebrating the UAE’s 50th anniversary runs from November 29 to December 14 at the Dubai Opera.