Johor Baru's first opera house is now opened!

On the evening of Jan 19, the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House was officially declared open by His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, the Sultan of Johor to a backdrop of spectacular fireworks.

The Permaisuri Zarith Sofia Opera House
was officially declared open on 19 January 2020
The official opening ceremony was witnessed by Her Majesty Raja Zarith Sofia Binti Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah, Tunku Temenggong Johor Tunku Idris Iskandar Sultan Ibrahim, Tunku Panglima Johor Tunku Abdul Rahman Sultan Ibrahim and Tunku Putera Johor Tunku Abu Bakar Sultan Ibrahim.

With permission from His Majesty, the Sultan of Johor, the first opera house in Johor Baru was named after Her Majesty, Raja Zarith Sofia, Permaisuri (Queen) of Johor.

This is not only the first opera house in Johor but also the first opera house developed by R & F Development among its worldwide projects.

The guests and VIPs assembled for the opening ceremony at the R & F promenade known as the Marina Place included Johor Menteri Besar, Dato’ Dr Sahruddin Jamal, Johor State Secretary, R & F Group Chairman Dato’ Li Sze Lim, Dato’ Zhang Li and General Manager of China Performing Arts Agency, Zhang Li.

The opening act for the Opening Ceremony Show,
was a graceful dance entitled, Golden Soup Bottles
The Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House is managed by the China Performing Arts Agency (CPAA), its first overseas international theatre setup and is committed to becoming an art and cultural hub that promotes the performing arts in JB.
It was significant that the launch of this opera house coincides with the 2020 China-Malaysia Year of Culture and Tourism which further cements the friendship between the two nations.

Earlier that day, I was among media guests at a Press Conference with Zhang Li, General Manager of China Performing Arts Agency (CPAA) before we were welcomed into the opera house for an Exclusive Media Preview of the Opening Ceremony Show.

This special programme of performances, specially curated for the Guests-of-Honour, VIPs and invited guests was dubbed, Dazzling Marina Night with The Stars, with two shows scheduled on Jan 19 and 20.

Another scene from the graceful dance,
Golden Soup Bottles
The opera house aims to be a platform for local and international arts exchange, cultural engagement and creative inspiration, and this opening performance will showcase a magnificent audio-visual feast for the senses.

A glance at the Programme showed a list of a variety of performances like music, dance and percussion, acrobatics and Peking opera accompanied by multimedia interaction.

A closer look at the two Programmes for Jan 19 and 20 indicated that only three of the artistes from the first day’s show will repeat their performance on the second day.

Inside the opera house, I observed that the Media Preview was in fact a rehearsal where the artistes went on stage for sound-checks, position-checks and to perform excerpts of their presentations.

Tenor, Ding Yi, performed an impressive
interpretation of Nessum Dorma
I recognised the familiar dancers from Yayasan Warisan Johor (YWJ) or the Johor Heritage Foundation who would be presenting zapin, the Johor folk dance, and the YWJ Band who would be playing live music.

The opening act in the programme was a dance by the Ning Xia Performing Arts Group that featured graceful dancers that portrayed the purity of the ethnic Hui people.

Their dance performance entitled, Golden Soup Bottles, won First Prize in the 9th National Dance Competition, First Prize in the 2nd ethnic Hui Dance Competition and Silver Award in the inaugural National Minorities Dance Showcase.

This dance was also performed during the China Central Television (CCTV) New Year Eve Party’s Spring Festival Gala in 2012, the 12th “Five Ones Projects” Award of Spiritual Civilization and the large-scale music and dance epic: The Road to Revival.

While this graceful dance was visually captivating, I thought the solo performance by Ding Yi, a renowned male tenor who is the only lead tenor of Asian origin in the Sydney Opera House, was simply superb.

Guest-of-Honour, His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim, the
Sultan of Johor arrived promptly for the opening ceremony
In 2006, he was awarded the “Artist Achievement Award” jointly issued by the European Art Council and the City Council of Rome, becoming the only Chinese artist in the world to have received such a prestigious award!

His interpretation of Nessum Dorma, an aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot and one of the best-known tenor arias in opera, was both passionate and uplifting.

“7.30pm,” I was reminded that His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim, the Sultan of Johor, and Her Majesty Raja Zarith Sofiah, Permaisuri of Johor, were expected to arrive for the opening ceremony promptly at 7.30pm.

His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim declared
the opera house officially opened
From 6.30pm, State dignitaries, VIPs and invited guests started to arrive at the Marina Place while guest artistes provided live music entertainment on the nearby stage.

As the sun set and the Marina Place was gradually enveloped in twilight, the fa├žade of the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House made a stunning backdrop for photographs as countless cameras clicked to capture photo mementoes of this magnificent sight.

I heard the throb from the drumming of the 24 Festive Drums which signaled the arrival of the Johor Sultan and members of the Johor royal family, walking on the Blue carpet.

His Majesty the Johor Sultan and Her Majesty Permaisuri Johor, along with other VIPs were escorted to the stage to participate in the opening ceremony.

When the Johor Sultan declared the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House officially opened, all eyes were riveted on the opera house as a series of fireworks exploded above it!

When the fireworks show ended, His Majesty the Johor Sultan and Her Majesty Permaisuri Johor were escorted into the lobby of the opera house to unveil the commemorative plaque for the official opening of the opera house.

The commemorative plaques for the official opening
of JB's first opera house, at the lobby of the opera house
After a token of appreciation was presented to His Majesty the Johor Sultan and Her Majesty Permaisuri Johor, the Guests-of-Honour were shown to their seats in the royal box while other invited guests were directed to their seats.

In the next two hours, the Dazzling Marina Night with The Stars, dazzled the distinguished guests with a variety show of live entertainment.

At the close of the show, guests stepped out of the opera house to be thrilled by another spectacular show of fireworks in a fitting end to the evening’s entertainment for the official opening of JB’s first opera house.

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