Another impressive, eclectic programme of music and stage performances has been unveiled as part of the latest season from the Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM).
The stunning venue in the Omani capital, which opened in 2011, is about to embark on its eighth season, with up to 69 performances. This starts on September 6 and concludes on May 4, 2019.
The latest batch of shows features six operas, an original production and co-production, the world premiere of an Arab operetta, in addition to gigs by world music stars, the Italian bluesman Zuccero and Cuban jazz artist Chucho Valdes.
Here are key highlights from the programme.
Opening night: Placido Domingo
The great Spanish tenor is a regional favourite, having performed at both the Abu Dhabi Festival in 2013 and having the distinction of being the first artist to sing at the Dubai Opera in 2016. This time around he returns to Muscat to launch the opera house’s latest season with a programme of romanzas, duets and trios in a showcase of the Spanish music tradition of zarzuelas, which is known for its dramatic flair and dance. Domingo will perform on September 6 and 8.
The latest season hosts a series of productions, beginning with Alexander Borodin's epic Prince Igor (September 27 and 29), presented by the mighty Mariinsky Theatre of Russia.
A more wistful affair will be Johann Strauss's Eine Nacht in Venedig, on November 29 and 30, a co-production between the ROHM and Opera de Lyon and Oper Graz. Puccini's masterpiece Madama Butterfly will be performed by Spain's Opera de Bilbao and Italy's Chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu on January 17 and 19.
Another opera classic will be performed on February 7, 9 and 10, with Verdi's much loved La Traviata in a special show by LA Opera and the Chorus of Teatro Massimo di Palermo, which will be conducted by none other than Domingo himself.
More Italian romance can be heard in Rossini's La Scala di Seta on March 7 and 8. Presented by the Orchestra Sinfonica Gioachino Rossini, the production is a charming comedy about a woman and her ladder of silk. LA Opera will also return with their world premiere of Lakmé from March 28 to 30. Another co-production with the ROHM, Lakmé is a French tragic opera set in British India in the mid-19th century and is renowned for the riveting aria Bell Song in the second act.
Elegant tales and explosive dance performances are on offer in the ballet programme. First up is Fuego by Spanish master dancer and choreographer Antonia Gades. Staged on September 7, the show aims to fuse the passionate elements of flamenco with the dreamlike artistry of ballet.
We then move to the East from October 11 to 13 with The Tokyo Ballet showcase of La Bayadère, another classic of the ballet cannon that is set in ancient royal India and is a tale of passion and vengeance.
Those looking to be enchanted cannot go past Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty. Interpreted by the State Ballet of Georgia on November 8 to 10, prepare to be immersed in this fairy tale of a princess who is awoken from a century-old slumber by a dashing prince.
Classical music buffs will cherish the appearance of Valery Gergiev on September 28. The influential Russian composer will lead the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra and Chorus in Stravinsky's dynamic orchestral work, The Firebird and Prokofiev's cantata Alexander Nevsky.
Mahler's celebrated Third Symphony will be performed by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra on April 4, marking the first time the celebrated Austrian composer's work is performed in Oman.
Bollywood magic will move from screen to stage on October 4 and 5 with the troupe Namaste India taking audiences on a cultural tour of the rich music involved in India cinema.
Blues lovers will be overjoyed with the addition of Zucchero Fornaciari on January 3. Simply known by his first name, the Italian is hailed as the “father of Italian blues” and has performed with the likes of Miles Davis, B B King, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.
For a truly riveting evening, make sure to see the castanet maestro Lucero Tena on February 21 as she performs with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Teatro alla Scala.
Then make sure to wear your dancing shoes on April 21, when Cuban musician Chucho Valdes takes to the stage with his rumbling and carnivalesque brand of Afro-Cuban jazz that earned him up to six Grammy Awards.
While the names are all familiar and have all performed in the UAE before, the chance to see Arab pop stars in such a regal setting as the ROHM is worth the trip. Lebanese pop star Wael Kfoury will take to the stage on both October 17 and 18. Iraqi singer Kadim Al Sahir will return to ROHM on December 26 and 27, while Kuwaiti veteran songbird Nawal El Kuwaitia will deliver her hits on January 25.
The big finale
The ROHM ends its season with another first: its debut hosting of an Arabic opera on May 3 and 4.
Antar and Abla, produced by Opera Lebanon, is set in the Arab world in the medieval era and features warring tribes, romance and adventure. The production features a cast of 100 solo and choral singers, dancers and backing musicians.
For details on all the performances and ticketing for the Royal Opera House Muscat’s 2018-2019 season go to www.rohmuscat.org.om