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An Opera Boom in the Gulf

posted on: Jun 14, 2019

Adapting the art form to local sensibilities can be a challenge

An Opera Boom in the Gulf


In “lakmé”, an opera by Léo Delibes, a Brahmin priest laments his daughter’s affair with a British officer. The patriarch’s view of forbidden love has a special piquancy at the Royal Opera House, Muscat (rohm), where the work was performed earlier this year. One of the most spectacular opera houses in the world, the venue is the flagship of the art form’s swift rise across the conservative Gulf region.

In 1970, when Sultan Qaboos ousted his father, Oman had only two hospitals and three schools. Qaboos, now 78, has used some of the country’s oil wealth to update both its infrastructure and its image. The sultan is an autocrat (and a spendthrift), but he affects an enthusiasm for the arts. He founded the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra in 1985; the rohm (pictured) opened in 2011. Its staircase and marble match the Opéra de Paris in grandeur.