The travelling exhibitions of Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London have a significant impact on the arts world. Timeless masterpieces from the museum’s collection are made available in select countries listed as a part of its itinerary. This year Muscat, is the final stopover for the travelling multi-sensory exhibition that has passed through major European cities, including London, Milan, Paris, Vienna and Venice. What these cities have in common with Muscat is strong patronage for the opera. This is what the exhibition titled ‘Opera, 400 Years of Passion’ aims to tell: The story of opera’s journey to Oman.
In an informal introduction hosted on Monday, Nasser al Taie, director of education and outreach at the Royal Opera House Muscat, said the exhibition captures the rich history of opera and its evolution through these cities.
On a self-guided tour of the exhibition, set to carefully selected operatic music complementing the artworks and representations from each city, visitors one can see the evolution of opera through centuries. “It reflects the improvement over time,” said Taie, adding that it shows that “making a theatre requires art and science”. The costumes, documents, paintings and replicas that come from the six cities - including Muscat - featured in this tour make this amply clear.
The exhibition, running till March 14, traces the roots of opera in Venice where it began to flourish in the early 17th century and gradually became a popular musical art form in other European countries.
In Oman, opera was introduced in 2011 when His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said established the Royal Opera House Muscat. On the occasion, Giacomo Puccini’s grand opera, Turandot was exclusively commissioned and directed by the world-renowned Franco Zeffireli. The rich history of patronage for the arts in the sultanate is documented in this exhibition.
The theatrical setting of Turandot highlights the love story of princess Turandot and her suitor prince Calaf who solves tough riddles to win her hand. A vivid representation is on display of the icy princess standing beside her father, the emperor, along with minister Ping. The costumes, along with the props on display, are owned by ROHM.
“Muscat was not part of the original exhibition by V&A museum. It was added at a later stage. We wanted this exhibition to relate to Oman and we wanted to celebrate the musical culture of the country,” said Taie.
Being held at the House of Musical Arts - and extension of ROHM - which can be accessed via a bridge from Opera Galleria, the sultanate’s significant operatic history is brought alive by the pieces of this exhibition. Visitors of Opera Galleria are promised a musical journey through history as they are transported from carnival atmosphere of Venice, to vibrant London, to enlightened Vienna, to sophisticated Milan and glamorous Paris, before ending their virtual tour in a resplendent Muscat today.
Open from 10am to 8pm Sunday to Saturday, and 3pm to 8pm on Fridays, tickets to the V&A exhibition can be purchased at the Opera Galleria reception desk in the main atrium. V&A ticket holders can enjoy a discount at select outlets and restaurants on the day of their visit. Discount vouchers can be obtained from the reception area.