RIGOLETTO AT ROYAL OPERA HOUSE MUSCAT
There have been few evenings which have been as memorable as the evening which Lata and I spent yesterday in the Royal Opera House, Muscat. Yesterday was the soft opening of the Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman and it was indeed a proud moment for all the residents of Oman as this is the first Opera House in any of the GCC countries and only the second in the whole of the Middle East (the first one is in Cairo). Last year witnessed the opening of the Gwangzhou Opera House in China and I am told that the architecture is extremely modern, loud and stylistic and this year we have the Muscat Opera House whose character seems to be in direct contrast.
The structure from the outside is sober, reflecting the local flavour, but the external facade lighting leaves no doubts about the sublime, yet stunning nature of the structure. The interiors are visually pleasing and the ornate woodwork and inlays are intricate and understated at the same time. We were not allowed to take mobiles or cameras inside the premises and hence have been able to paste only the photograph which I took from the outside. The Opera House can accommodate about a thousand patrons; what I found unique was that there is a screen fitted behind each of the wooden seats, which operates by touch and gives the opportunity for the viewer to choose the language for the sub-titles which come on the screen as the opera is played out. That is perhaps essential, since the operatic productions are mostly in Italian, which not many local viewers can follow.
RIGOLETTO is an Italian production and will be played again today evening; the Royal Opera House is expected to open its doors officially on October 14th, 2011. The official brochure has this to say in its welcome note: There is a place where time stands still. Where exceptional talent meets a world-class platform. Where the discerning can appreciate genius. Where passion overrides logic. Where the echoes of an encore ring in the ears long after the applause has stopped. Where the magic of an moment can remain in the mind’s eye forever….need I say more?
Now about RIGOLETTO itself. Was I overawed by the story? Or the performance by the actors? Or by the singing? Or the orchestra? Or the truly Operatic sweep of the production and the sets? Or the ambience created? Difficult for me to say, but let me begin with the story line. The Duke of Mantua is brazen about how he feels amorously towards every beautiful woman and the song which he sings “Questa O quella per me pari sono” seems to have inspired the Character Dheela song from the Salman starrer READY ( I can’t get away far from Bollywood, can I? The song, for those of you who follow Hindi goes like this: Kudiyan Ka nasha Pyare, nasha sabse nasheela hai). His newest interest is the Countess Ceprano and while her husband is upset by this development, he is ridiculed by Rigoletto, the Duke’s hunchbacked jester. When the other courtiers, keen to win favour with the Duke side with Rigoletto and watch the fun, Count Monterone, the father of one of the Duke’s victims curses the jester for making fun of a father’s sorrow and Rigoletto is suddenly struck with remorse and fear at the same time. The second scene in Act 1 introduces the viewers to Gilda, the beautiful daughter of the jester and how the Duke of Mantua seduces her and causes her to fall head over heels in love with him and concludes with the kidnapping of Gilda by the Duke’s courtiers who mistake Gilda to be the paramour of the jester. The jester realises that he has been tricked by Giovanna, the lady whom he had trusted for keeping watch on his daughter.
The second act deals with the jester’s discovery of Gilda being with the Duke and his being prevented by the courtiers to prevent the inevitable from happening, despite revealing to them that Gilda is his daughter. When Count Monterone, on his way to prison, finds that that the Duke is still continuing to have a merry time, Rigoletto assures the Count that he would avenge the wrongdoing.
The third act pictures how Rigoletto hires an assassin to kill the Duke and how the assassin uses his sister to lure the Duke. But the Duke charms the assassin’s sister as well, who pleads with her brother to spare the Duke’s life and suggests to him that he can get out of the situation by killing Rigoletto instead. The assassin, true to his honour, refuses to kill his client, but agrees with his sister to kill the first male whom he sees thereafter. In the meantime, Rigoletto is informed by his daughter about how she herself is in love with the Duke, despite his philandering nature, but Rigoletto advises her to don a man’s clothing and escape from the Duke’s clutches. Unfortunately, when she is about to do that, she overhears the assassin’s plan of killing the first male whom he comes across that night and knocks at the door in a male dress and sacrifices herself. The act concludes with the jester realizing the truth of what has happened and remembering Monterone’s curse collapses next to the body of his daughter.
Presented by a cast of over 60 actors to the background of the live orchestra and the outstandingly created sets, the 160 minute production with two intermissions of twenty minutes each was, to use an understatement, spectacular!
And coming back to the official opening of the Royal Opera House, can anyone tell me as to why despite the structural personalities of the Gwangzhou and the Muscat Opera Houses being so diametrically different, Opera Turandot was the Gwangzhou Opera House’s first performance and will be the first performance in the Muscat Opera House?
And for all Andrea Bocelli fans (more about this in my next blog post) fans, he is going to perform here on November 1st 2011. Deepakji, are you listening?
September 8th, 2011