The winter ‘Open House’ at the Royal Opera House Muscat was held last Saturday, December 14. Spread over all the foyers, porches and in Opera Galleria ‘The Power of Imagination’ took young people aged four upwards through an array of practical, visual workshops to explore inner ideas through artistic forms. From 10am children signed up to participate in free one-hour sessions organised in small groups throughout the building by the Education and Outreach Team at ROHM.
As one approached the front facade of the Opera House, the sound of thirty children, aged eight and above playing various percussion instruments drifted across the white marble Maidan in a welcome fanfare. Ernesto Raymat’s accessible, ‘Drum Circle’ has become a regular and popular feature at the bi-annual Open Houses, and in the mild winter clime, this outdoor communal rhythm making activity was thronged by would-be drummers. Teens and adults were invited to join the afternoon session in more sophisticated interlocking rhythmic patterns.
Inside the beautifully designed grand foyer, children were already lining up to register for the second round of workshops from 11.30 am in Music and Movement, Quilling, Story-Telling and Drama. On the long corridor in front of the theatre, the dexterous talents of Malinda Siriwardana from The Edge Art Gallery in Salalah were engaging twenty children aged up to fourteen on the intricate Art of Quilling, or Art made of paper. Malinda pointed out that with patience and passion students could create anything they wanted. Without prior ability, the children were taught to fold, bend, cut, roll and shape papers to make imaginative three-dimensional pictures.
Just opposite in the natural light of the South Porch a renowned Omani storyteller and illustrator, Ibtihaj al Harthy, had children transfixed with her animated style of narration. Her storytelling workshop centred on, ‘The Singing Creature’ which began, ‘Once upon a time there was a giant who loved to play music’; Who is the giant and what happens next? The children were encouraged to continue and invent their own stories by colouring, drawing and writing about fictional characters in little notebooks provided for each child, aged six to twelve.
In the large East Porch, the thespian talents of an experienced actor from the Globe Theatre in England, Olivia Mace entitled her Drama Workshop, ‘Shakespeare’s Imaginary Forces’. Using physical, vocal and creative gesture, young performers ‘explored some of Shakespeare’s most magical characters and enchanted settings through theatrical activities and games’. They recreated some of the scenes in Shakespeare’s timeless stories and performed their imaginative interpretations to other participants and parents at the end of each session.
Children in Muscat were encouraged to shed inhibitions and gain confidence through performance in Olivia’s Drama Workshop and upstairs in Belgian artist Caroline Leboutte’s ‘Imagine Music’ workshop. Caroline encouraged the students in her groups to use the space in the room to respond to music stimulus through movement, dancing and singing. Small groups created musical shows in a safe performance space.
At 3 pm all the participants, plus students under sixteen had a golden opportunity to perform in a plenary open mic session in a friendly, supportive environment. Instruments and space were provided by ROHM – and who knows which stars of the future were born?
Across the Maidan in the Opera Galleria, a plethora of artistic, interactive activities were going on, free to all without prior booking. There was Face Painting given by make-up artists Rennie Lucena and Arturo Verano from the Opera House Theatre, quick cartoon ‘portraits’ by Fahad al Zadjali and colouring-in for tiny tots. Central in the Courtyard Space was a splendid Exhibition of the Schools’ Art Competition on the theme of Abstract Art for six to twelve-year-olds.
This competition was open to all public and private school students in Oman since October, and over twenty-five schools participated with over 350 entries and 140 finalists exhibited.
In the opposite Galleria Courtyard a technologically innovative VR installation, curated by Graphic Designer, Mustafa al Ajmi from Social Mania allowed members of the public, wearing special headsets provided with two huge screens, to play a virtual hitting-game with their arms, and another creating – Abstract Art!
It was an impressive addition to the free events offered all day long at this busy time of year. Young people in the Capital can look forward to the next ROHM Open House on Saturday 15th February, subtitled ‘Music and Science’.
It will have more magnificent workshops given by experts in their fields, and a Science Poem Competition for under fourteens. Something to get excited about already!