Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 June 2016
In this article Ziad Adwan examines the relationship between the Opera House in Damascus and the Al-Assad dynasty. Hafez Al-Assad ordered the building of the Opera House but it remained unfinished at his death. His son Bashar opened it after three decades of construction. Leaving the institution unfinished was, it is argued here, due to uncertainty regarding its identity, place in the bureaucratic hierarchy, and meaning in a totalitarian regime. Theatre institutions were driven to take oppositional positions against one another, and the Opera House intensified the enmity. No theatres were built during the reign of Hafez Al-Assad, and while the Opera House was a hope for many Syrians, it also played a role in dividing them. Adwan concludes that the exceptional design features and location of the Opera House have marked its activities and that in relation to the Al-Assad dynasty it has become a critical focus in the Syrian war. Ziad Adwan is a theatre practitioner, who completed his PhD in Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. He taught at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus (2009–2013) and has acted in plays and films, as well as working as a director. He was the artistic director of Invisible Stories, a series of street theatre events in different places in Damascus. Adwan is currently affiliated with the Global Theatre Histories research project at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich.