The Sultanate Opera House in Muscat, opened by Sultan Qaboos on the 12th of last October, is considered as the Gulf’s first opera house and as an architectural masterpiece which links the Islamic culture with the international music.
This house, consisting of eight floors, three of which are underground, is built over a vast area amounting to 80 thousand square meters, in an area near Al Karm in Muscat. The built area exceeds 25 thousand square meters, with a height of 32 meters.
The Opera House
The main hall accommodates between 850 and 1,100 seats. It also consists of the hall front part seats, three balconies and a number of side seating enclosures. Its design is inspired by Arabic and Islamic heritage, as teakwood was used in the arches, balconies and wooden surfaces, as well as precise and interlaced decorations and hand painted engravings for decorating the ceiling.
The Sultanate Opera House in Muscat is most distinguished by its theater which represents the heart of the house. It contains an advanced sound control system, adjustable theater platform, theater tower comprising suspension equipments, scene control systems, and other theatrical and mechanical systems.
The opera building extends from the north to the south of the site. The building is intersected by two lobbies of columns which extend on its eastern and western sides. As for the north edge of the western lobby, the studio theater is located there, and this is also known as the “Black Box” which may host functions attended by up to 80 guests.
Suitable Designs for Each Show
The Oman Opera House is based on the highest international standards in the field of sound technology, while the seating in the theater hall was designed in order to be adjustable according to the type of the show and whether it is an opera, a theatrical show or a musical festival. The theater platform can be moved according to the number of orchestra members. In the event of presenting musical shows, the seats may be adjusted so that the theater can accommodate approximately 1100 persons as a maximum. As for the opera shows which require expansion of the platform, the seating capacity may be reduced to 850. The theater includes an upper tower of 32 meters in height to facilitate theatrical formations.
Tourist and cultural attraction
It is expected that the Sultanate Opera House will act as a tourist attraction, as the project comprises a market for displaying fine arts, heritage handcrafts products in addition to the restaurants, cafes, shops, car parking and green spaces.
The inauguration of the Opera House is considered as the beginning of a new phase of the constant efforts to foster the Omani folkloric arts and interact with the international culture and arts, in addition to the melding of local heritage with modernism in the Sultanate Opera House. This is considered a benchmark indicating the extent of concern addressed to a society which opens to the world in order to reach the cultural diversity of which Oman takes pride in.
The Sultanate Opera House is considered as an architectural masterpiece, as some details of the Omani castles, represented in the repeated openings on top of the external walls are felt, in addition to inspiring the heritage of wooden mashrabiyas which characterize Arabic houses in the design of some wooden formations within the building, the design of the lanterns and chandeliers. We can also feel some effects of the architectural heritage which dates back to the Mamluk era. Mongolian and Indian decorations may also be seen on several walls.
The main building is also characterized by its external luster, derived from the high quality Omani marble, while it is surrounded by open landscapes and gardens.
It is expected that the inauguration season of the Sultanate Opera House will continue till end of next March. It was opened this season with the “Tornado” masterpiece by the Italian Puccini, attended by an audience of 500 guests. Meanwhile, the shows will continue with ‘Carmen’ during December, on 17, 19, 21 December, which will be accompanied by the music of George Bizet. The opera ‘Carmen’ is one of the most famous opera shows in French language. On 27, 28, 29 and 30 December, the Marinski ballet will present the “Swan Lake” show. It is scheduled that the New Year Eve festival will be presented by Marinski ballet, under the title ‘Enjoy and Restore your Activity” on December 31.
In November, the Sultanate Opera House functions also held a musical show for the outstanding singer Majeda Al Roumi, and another show titled “Kan Ya Makan” in which the Egyptian singer Reham Abdulhakeem sang the masterpieces sang by the Arabic famous singer, Om Kalthoum. Meanwhile, several musical shows were organized which touched upon the echo of fantasy with a number of outstanding and diversified shows. Andrea Buchili, accompanied by The State Hermitage Orchestra, performed an act entitled “Love by the Italian Way”. The London Philharmonic Orchestra and world-renowned cellist Yoyo Ma, and conductor Christoph Ahnbach, presented the “Magical Cello”, while the Opera House Ballet, La Scala Giselle, presented “Imagine the Dance of Life.”
The Sultanate of Oman counts on the new opera house to become an eternal benchmark of its civilization and historical sites, capable of competing with the Italian Opera House “La Scala” and the Royal Opera House in London, as well as Sydney Opera or New York Opera. It has been a dream of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said for some time, now it has finally been realized.
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #36 December 2011 - January 2012