If you had told me 4 years ago when I first came to Oman that I’d be watching the world famous Swan Lake in Muscat, I would have told you that you were out of your mind! First of all, who would have ever thought that there would be an opera house in Muscat, Oman on the Arabian peninsula?! And me watching a ballet?! haha! I never would have guessed that my wife would have me so easily hooked.
Each corner, inside and out of the Opera House, is a real sight to see due to the extensive use of Marble as well as Omani Desert Rose limestone for the walls.
Even though it was our fourth evening at the Opera House, the beauty of the building continues to astound me on each visit. There is always something new about the artwork, structure and design that I hadn’t noticed before.
This was my first time walking upstairs to see the upper level of the Opera House. Gorgeous! As in the main lobby, there are antique musical instruments on display upstairs as well, including these French pieces (all from the 19th century) that you see in the glass display behind the chairs.
The beautiful arches on the Level 1 colonnade contain concealed airconditioning in the arch soffits. All of the beautiful interior finishings were produced in Oman!
Scenes of Omani life/culture/traditions by the talented artist, David Willis, can be seen throughout the Opera House.
It’s nice to go upstairs and get a bird’s eyeview of the Main Foyer!
The beauty of the Main Foyer is brought out in brilliant combination of marble floor, teak wood screens and beams and towering white pillars.
The lovely ladies (and gentlemen!) working at the Opera House make wonderful ambassadors for the Sultanate of Oman. They are ready to assist you in finding your seat, will answer any question you may have related to the building and services there and are more than happy to have a photo taken! 🙂
Act 1 was 70 minutes long and consisted of 2 scenes; the 1st was “The Park of a Castle” and the 2nd was “A Lake in the Forest in the Middle of the Night“. From the synopsis in the Programme, scene 1: “Prince Siegfried and his friends are celebrating his coming of age at a private party. The guests drink to his health and the jester entertains them with his antics. The Prince is warned that his mother, the Princess Regent, is approaching. She is displeased with her son’s behaviour and he presents her with a bouquet of roses to pacify her. After the Princess has gone, the partying begins anew. Twilight falls. The guests depart and the Prince is left alone in the park. High above, Siegfried catches sight of a flock of white swans and the sight stirs the hunter’s urge in him. Seizing his bow, the Prince makes his way off into the heart of the forest.” The costumes were so beautiful in the first act. It took time for me to warm up to the story and characters, but one thing that was remarkable to me during this ballet is how the dancers know precisely when to make certain movements, choreographed precisely to exact notes from the Orchestra. Such timing and skill can only come from a lifetime of practise and devotion to dance. Scene 2 was incredible! Scene 2: “White swans are swimming near the shore; they are beautiful young maidens who have been transformed by the evil magician, Von Rothbart. Only at night can they assume human form and the only power on earth which can break this evil spell is devoted love. Siefried appears. He sees one of the white birds come to shore and draw his bow to shoot it. The bird suddenly turns into a beautiful woman-it is Odette, Queen of the swan-maidens. Odette’s beauty enthrals the Prince and he tries to capture her. She, however, is afraid of the evil magician and as she avoids Siefried, she disappears in the midst of the swan-maidens. Siegfried runs after Odette and vows eternal love and fidelity to her. Odette’s heart responds in the same way to Siefried’s passionate love. Dawn breaks. Odette bids Siegfried a tender farewell and the white swans glide slowly away across the lake.” The 2nd scene was the most magical (as well as the 4th scene in the same dreamlike lakeside setting) with “white swans” and “black swans” dancing with such unity and precision. At one point, I counted 22 white swans and 8 black swans and the leading male dancer dressed in white as well; all 31 dancing indeed like graceful swans across the stage. I was really impressed with the dancing, acting, makeup and evil-bird-costume of the evil magician in the 2nd scene. His performance and air really brought realism to the entire scene.
After a 25-minute intermission, on with Act 2! After enduring a 70-minute 1st act (the longest act we’ve experience so far in the 4 performances we’ve seen at the Opera House), the 40 minutes of Act 2 seems to zip by so fast! Act 2 (or Scene 3: A Ball at the Castle): “Siegfried must choose a bride from among the well-bred maidens who have been invited, but he remains indifferent to them all because he has given his heart to Odette. Only at his mother’s insistence does he dance with any of the prospective brides. He must, however, choose one of them, and as a token of his love, he must give his chosen bride a bouquet. As he faces this dilemna, however, a fanfare of trumpets heralds the arrival of new guests: the magician Von Rothbart and Odile, his daughter. The Prince is struck by her resemblance to Odette. Von Rothbart wants the Prince to fall in love with Odile so that he will break his vow of eternal love and fidelity; Odette will then remain in the sorcerer’s power forever. It is for this reason that he has given his own daughter Odette’s form and features. Odile seduces Siegfried, who is fascinated by her charm. He announces to his mother that the beautiful Odile is his choice. The wicked magician is jubilant. Suddenly, Siegfried sees a vision of the true swan-maiden outside the castle window and realises that he has been deceived into breaking his vow. In despair, he rushes to the lake to find his beloved Odette.” This royal scene really brought out the energy and talent of the Mariinsky Ballet, especially that of the 2 leading roles. At one point, the leading female dancer twirled around 20 times in a row without even a hint of imbalance or fatique, causing an Omani man seated directly in front of us to shout out, “BRAVO!” According to the program, it should have been Viktoria Tereshkina but there was a quick announcement at the beginning of the evening (in a muffled voice) that there were 3 changes to principal roles and so we’re not 100% about any of the exact dancers’ names that evening. The truth is, they were all brilliant!
The 2nd intermission was 25 minutes as well. The 3rd Act, or 4th Scene was only 20 minutes long and a beautiful ending to an incredible evening. “The swan-maidens stand dejected and sad. Odette has told them what has happened. Siegfried rushes in. He begs Odette to forgive him and he professes his undying love for her, but the enraged sorcerer summons the black swans and commands them to separate Odette and Siegfried. Siegfried grapples with the magician. Fearless in the encounter, he breaks Von Rothbart’s wing. The enchanter collapses, his power gone, and he dies. Love has broken the evil spell. The run rises and shines radiantly on the Prince and Odette, and on the maidens whom Siegfried has rescued.” The fight scene was well done as was the impressive “dance of death” of the magician. This was the first ballet performance/story we’ve seen that ended on a happy note without someone committing suicide which was nice for a change! 🙂 It’s easy to see why Swan Lake is one of the world’s most famous ballets. Truly an enchanting and memorable evening at the Opera House!
Those of you fortunate and wise enough to have bought yourselves tickets for the New Year’s Eve Ghala Event (sold out! 😦 ) are in for a real treat! For us, our best evening out so far at Royal Opera House Muscat was with Mariinsky Ballet!