A performance in the Qatar Opera House

A performance in the Qatar Opera House. Photo NeilvdL.

Among the larger buildings of the Qatar Cultural Village is the Qatar Opera House. It stands out in height and volume, yet it merges well with the village-style architecture of the surrounding compound. In almost every aspect of the building, a retro-design style prevails. The inside of the main hall was made to resemble a 19th century European concert hall. However, the abundant use of velvet curtains and plush for the seating, probably in combination with the shape of the hall, has been disadvantageous for the acoustics, which are rather dry. This certainly hampers symphonic-music performances. That is a pity because otherwise for the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra no efforts and expenses were spared to assemble some of the best musicians from the region, and beyond; the orchestra also counts Russian and West-European members, and Doha is also able to invite prestigious conductors and soloists.

A regular guest of the orchestra is the Lebanese singer, composer and oud-player Marcel Khalife, who is also an adviser to the orchestra. The orchestra does not only play Western classical music, but also has a vast repertoire of Oriental orchestral music, such as the compositions Khalife writes for symphonic orchestra, as well as the orchestral parts for accompanying Arabic singers in the style that Umm Kulthumm, Abdelhalim Hafez and Warda (in Egypt) and Feiruz (in Lebanon) initiated, and which lives on in the Arabic world. For such concerts, the orchestra is able to attract a more local audience.

Seat prices for a concert range from about 15 to 100 Euros, which is comparatively high–for the highest rank not much less than for instance tickets to the Amsterdam Concertgebouw–and perhaps 20 times as high as a ticket in the Cairo Opera House when the Cairo Symphony Orchestra performs.

The main hall can receive about 800 spectators. The building is also home to a smaller Drama Theatre, a multipurpose space that plays host to theatre and films. This hall can seat about 300 people.

Since October 2012, the music director is Han-na Chang, cellist and former chief conductor of the Bavarian Youth Orchestra.

Kurt Meister, who previously was manager at the Bavarian State Opera, is executive director of the orchestra and the person who assembled the orchestra.

The Opera House is a main screening venue during the Doha Tribeca Film Festival.

The amphitheater in Katara Cultural Village is large and has excellent natural acoustics, but there is noise from the city surroundings, and nights can be too hot or too windy for a considerable part of the year.


Written by: Neil Last modified: 7th Nov 2012