On Sunday and Monday evenings this week the Royal Opera House Muscat presented a fine musical tribute ‘On the occasion of the third anniversary of His Majesty, Sultan Haitham bin Tarik’s accession to the throne’, to full houses of fortunate invitees. Guests were attired impressively in traditional Omani dress or colourful costumes, and enjoyed refreshments in the grand lobby as they mingled amongst fellow concert goers, full of anticipation.
The varied programme of uplifting, festive pieces was presented by the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra under its resident conductor Hamdan Al Shaely, the Omani Opera Choir Group, and the Camerata Musicale Di Parma Choir with a very special guest — Maestro Plàcido Domingo.
The programme centred on an Italian Classical section flanked by Omani contemporary works. The audience was delighted with the Overture to Rossini’s ever popular, “La Gazza Ladra” or “The Thieving Magpie” known for its use of snare drums which give it a ceremonial flavour. Under the capable baton of Maestro Domingo, the military-style opening was utterly appropriate for the Royal occasion. Although the wind players found some tricky intonation challenges early on, the ensemble gradually warmed up to reach a fine, robust conclusion.
It was followed by Beethoven’s celebrated, ‘Ode to Joy’, performed superbly by the combined guest and home choirs. Opening in the lower strings with the famous theme, the piece gradually built up to a brilliant, resounding and well received ‘tutti’ climax.
Verdi’s short chorus, ‘Va, Pensiero’ saw Domingo draw suspense and warmth from the choirs and strings, followed by a stunning performance of the ‘Triumphal March’ from ‘Aida’. The trumpets’ and choir’s clear articulation, at home in the Italian language, and brilliant ensemble playing was magnificent to the end - fitting for His Majesty’s anniversary celebration.
The concert opened with Shaely’s own Nationalistic composition, ‘A Renewed Rennaissance Symphonic Suite’. The percussive, ‘Sultan’s March’ was followed by a more lyrical, ‘Symphonic Poem’ and concluded with a rousing, ‘Land of Joy and Peace’.
Egyptian Composer, Omar Khairat’s Cavatina-like, ‘El Da’eya’ for violin and orchestra was performed with breathtaking pathos. ROSO’s first violinist, Saif al Kaabi, played the opening solo section superbly, followed by a proud Finale with the Omani Opera Choir Group in splendid voice.
In Ahmed al Musawi’s, programmatic ‘Nasheed, A Tale from Oman’ the audience was treated to some fine orchestral writing, performed sensitively by ROSO.
After the Italian section, Hamdan Al Shaely conducted Arturo Màrquez’ flamboyant, ‘La Conga del Fuego Nuevo’ by heart. The orchestra showed a splendid grasp of Spanish cross-rhythms with added percussion in an exciting Fiesta Extravaganza!
Elenany’s finale Nasheed, ‘Omanis’ opened in filmic style, then Arabesque with the inclusion of a traditional folk music sextet and chorus. The ‘Omani and Proud’ conclusion featured a qanoon cadenza and a reappearance of world renowned operatic tenor Plàcido Domingo, bravely singing the solo verse in Arabic!
Lasting just an hour, this wonderful pairing provided a joyful, celebratory conclusion to a memorable gift of performance by the Royal Opera House of Musical Arts.