10 years on, ROHM is still inspiring curiosity and wonder

T-Mag Tuesday 20/October/2020 23:32 PM
By: Gautam Viswanathan
10 years on, ROHM is still inspiring curiosity and wonder

The Royal Opera House Muscat, one of Oman’s most iconic buildings, celebrates its ninth anniversary this year, and there is no time better than the present to look at the impact it has had in the country.

Featuring stately, refined architecture that leaves many of us impressed by its majestic presence, ROHM continues to deliver time and again on the ideas behind which it was founded.

Since its official opening on October 12, 2011, with the audience treated to an amazing rendition of the opera Turandot, conducted in Muscat by one of the Three Tenors – Spaniard Placido Domingo – the opera house has always intended to, through its works, showcase the diversity of artistic creations from the Sultanate, the region and the world and provide a great space for culture, social and economic development and its implications.

It also inspires its audiences and nurtures their creativity through innovative programmes that enhance cultural vitality and unleash talents, as well as promote cultural tourism and emphasise the role of art as a diplomatic mediator by spreading the spirit of rapprochement between different peoples of the world and enhancing cultural communication and exchange.

This, of course, would not have been possible without the presence of the brilliant artistes who have come to perform from all around the world. Turandot aside, ROHM has laid on amazing performances of legendary pieces such as La Traviata, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, and The Magic Flute, brought to Oman by talented men and women from places as far away as St Petersburg (the Mariinsky Ballet), New York (the American Ballet Theatre), London (the city’s very own philharmonic performed here), as well as amazingly gifted individuals of the likes of Andrea Bocelli, Yo Yo Ma, Renee Fleming, and Wynton Marsalis.

Celebrating its anniversary, ROHM said in a statement, “Huge thanks to our audience of over one million and the 30,000 artists who have shone on our stages.”

It’s truly been an eclectic cultural feast, drawn from all corners of the world for us to savour, and to mark this anniversary, ROHM – which has also provided plenty of stage time to local and regional artists, encouraging a wide variety of performances from various genres of theatre – has released a production of songs called Adheem Al Majid (English for ‘great glory’) to honour His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, and the renewed momentum he brings to the country’s progress.

Envisioned under the reign of the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Bin Taimur, the Royal Opera House Muscat isn’t just a building that inspires people who enter its doors, but those who look at it from the outside as well.

Located in Shatti Al Qurum, one of Muscat’s most prestigious neighbourhoods, it is a building that almost effortlessly catches the eye, its white marble exterior gleaming during the daytime, while giving off a subtle glow at night, the feeling of wonder and curiosity it imparts only emphasised by the vertical spotlights that softly illuminate its imposing yet humble exterior.

It is, in many ways, a building that truly emphasises the essence and quality of Oman and its people: the façade of the ROHM is at the same time both inspiring and modest, elegant and simple. Its interior, featuring a dark teak panelling, amazing marble work featuring a number of intricately-made carvings, and stunning chandeliers, is designed to encourage creativity and expression, is both beautiful and welcoming, much like the Omani spirit of togetherness and friendship.

The complex was designed by Omani firm Carillion Alawi, who were awarded the contract to build it in April 2007. Describing the process of constructing ROHM, the company said in a statement, “The job commencement was delayed because of Cyclone Gonu, which had affected the progress of the work due to the amount of dewatering that needed a solution before the commencement.” This is also the first opera house of its kind in the Middle East, featuring state-of-the-art tech to enhance the audience’s experience.

“The works involved the construction of a prestigious 1,000 seat concert and opera theatre, a floor area of 15,380 square metres over six levels, and three basement floors. The main structure is reinforced concrete with block infill. External finishes are Omani marble and render.”

The Royal Opera House Muscat has undergone subsequent expansion in the years following its opening. To host exhibitions showcasing art and culture, an extension, called the House of Music and Art, was built on the other side of the road which passes behind the main building. Connected to the main structure by a pedestrian skywalk incorporating Omani architectural styles, the first event at ROHMA, as the new annexe is called, was an exhibition from the Victoria and Albert Museum, held on 17 January, 2019.

Installed within ROHM is the Mode23 sound system from Italian company Radio Marconi, aptly named after the man who gave us the radio, and has enhanced the experiences of the thousands of theatre goers who have attended shows at the opera house over the last 10 years.

The system was designed to draw the audience deep into the performance, whether they were enjoying themselves from the seats in front of the stage, or the boxes that surround it. Controlled by a server that rapidly connects and transmits to every single unit installed, this was among the first times this sound system had been installed in a large-scale entertainment venue, with particular attention given to low power consumption and minimal heat dissipation.

The system is also able to provide simultaneous multilingual translation of events, both in text and audio formats, while also displaying the corresponding text on 12-inch screens placed in some areas of the venue.

“We consider the success of this creation an excellent starting point, to further improve upon the challenging path we have undertaken, when it comes to innovation,” Radio Marconi’s founder and president, Stefano De Lissandri, previously said. “We are confident that, with the additional technologies being developed, our innovative commitment to the world will be strengthened.”