The Royal Opera House of Oman, the first of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula, was officially opened on Wednesday by the country’s ruler Sultan Qaboos, himself a music enthusiast.
“The time has now come to cap that rich heritage (of Oman) by adopting concepts of international culture and contribute to its promotion,” Qaboos said on the opening night.
“Towards that end, we have established the Royal Opera House Muscat as a centre of cultural promotion,” he said.
Wednesday night’s performance of Puccini’s Turandot attracted some of the industry’s most famous artists. It was directed by Franco Zeffirelli, while the Fondazoine Arena di Verona Orchestra and chorus was led by Placido Domingo.
The opera house promises an impressive first season, with planned performances by Placido Domingo, Andrea Bocelli, and soprano Renee Fleming.
Also on the agenda are music performances by world-renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the American Ballet Theatre in a production of Don Quixote, and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis with New York city’s Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra.
A tribute in honour of legendary Arab singer Oum Kalthoum and a concert by the Arab diva Majda Roumi are also on the schedule.
The project was first launched in 2001 by orders of the sultan.
The opera house, a glamorous structure built on a plot of 80,000 square metres (861,140 square feet), shares the grounds with a small theatre, restaurants, and luxury shops, with at least half the area designated for gardens.
The only other opera house in the Arab world is in Cairo.