Did you know that the Royal Opera House Muscat’s pipe organ, the largest in the GCC, has a unique flute sound called ‘Flute Qaboos’ — one of the 70 stops of this intricate instrument specially dedicated to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos?
Did you also know that the current design of the opera house went through a series of changes and that the proposed designs were totally different than the opera house we see today?
Interesting pieces of information like these are the magnetic factors that make the Opera 400 Years of Passion exhibit organised by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London held at the Royal Opera House of Musical Arts a must visit before its showing ends on March 14, 2019.
With more than 200 objects from across Europe, the exhibit tells the story of opera’s journey starting in the early 17th century Venice to 21st century Oman.
The exhibition opened in September of 2017 and has since been taking its visitors through a multi-sensory journey through five European cities, unfolding the historic era of opera which made its way through multiple cities and ultimately landing in the Sultanate in 2011 at The House of Musical Arts.
Opera, 400 Years of Passion houses objects significant of the rich era of opera, many pieces leaving Europe for the first time in hundreds of years including an array of beautiful works: oil paintings, marble busts, costumes, textiles, glass and chinaware.
The exhibit is also a reflection of how social, economic and artistic factors evolved, changed and affected the operatic masterpieces throughout the ages.
The exhibition is not only a showcasing platform for artefacts but also tells tales, shows pages and helps its audience travel back into time through an interactive learning experience, especially bettered by the world-class sound experience provided by Sennheiser. The GuidePORT headphone technology changes as we explore through the different times, cities and objects whilst creating an evocative and fully immersive experience.
Opera, 400 Years of Passion focuses on six cities: Venice, London, Vienna, Milan, Paris and Muscat and beautiful showcase its journey through these cities, as artists, composers and musicians created masterpieces. Opera through the ages have had the ability to bring together a multitude of art forms, musical styles and even engineering skills, creating a world on stage that almost seems real and here are some of our favourite pieces from the exhibit.
George Frideric Handel, 1685 – 1759
One of the first Italian language operas to be performed in London — a city that was then emerging as a global trade centre — Handel’s Rinaldo premiered in 1771.
Costumes often included works of skilled craftsmen working with intricate designs made of gold and silver. Part of a costume is a cream and silver tinsel brocade bodice and skirt made by an unknown maker from Italian in 1750. These were made popular with the introduction of Italian opera in London and soon influenced the fashion of stage divas and castratos. Another inactive piece next to the dress is an interactive mechanical stage model for II Vostro Maggio from Rinaldo. Specially commissioned, the theatre model inspired by the original staging of Rinaldo allows visitors to not only have a bit of fun staging their own little baroque stage but also give one a glimpse of how these stage props functioned in a time before electric run motors and fancy technology.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756 – 1791
Le Nozze di Figaro, 1786
Mozart’s famously known comic opera Le Nozze di Figaro premiered in Vienna in 1786. Often in his operas, Mozart drew on characters from everyday life and the singers wore then contemporary costumes on stage. Displayed at the exhibit is the dress worn by Mozart’s Count and Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro alongside engravings showing the city of Vienna in the 18th century. The exhibition also features a reproduction of a 1788 pianoforte similar to the one played by Mozart himself.
Giuseppe Verdi, 1813 – 1901
The growing importance of the chorus in opera is explored through Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco which premiered in 1841, Milan. Showcased along with portraits of Verdi and his second wife are Verdi’s official manuscripts of the famous chorus Va pensiero. Through the archival material from Verdi’s publisher and original designs from the Teatro alla Scala, visitors are also able to encounter a young Verdi, right at the brink of success.
Richard Wagner, 1813 – 1883
In the 1860s, opera had reached a point in time where it was a place for people of status and wealth. The high-classes enjoyed these musical theatricals and were often seen wearing the latest fashion couture ball gowns to the opera like the displayed gown worn by Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III. Ballet was an important part of Parisian Grand Opera and some precious sketches by the famous impressionist painter Edgar Degas show baller dancers both on stage and backstage. Wagner’s vision for the art form has been continually proved as inspiration for artists and writers even in this day and age.
Giacomo Puccini, 1858 – 1924
On the 12 October 2011 His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said inaugurated the Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM), setting the Sultanate into a new phase of cultural advancement. Cultural development has been the centre pillar of progress in the country, especially as it progresses into a modern nation whilst still maintaining its cultural integrity and identity and continuing to preserve the country’s rich heritage and traditions along with music and its performance conventions. At the exhibition are displayed costumes, photographs and instruments of the first opera produced in Oman.
The exhibition is open daily from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (excluding Fridays and public holidays) at the newly inaugurated House of Musical Arts (accessible through the Opera Galleria)