The Royal Opera House
Back from sunny Oman (sadly). We saw The Manganiyar Seduction, an Indian musical production, at the recently built Royal Opera House in Muscat. The show was starting at 7.30pm but our hotel advised us to get there at 6pm to avoid the queues. We arrived promptly, went through the airport-style security, fortunately without shoe removal, and then had to wait in an ante-chamber without chairs until 6.30pm. The foyer is photographed above: it has a magnificently carved wooden ceiling with mother of pearl inlay and the galleries around it are so finely made in marble that they look like carved ivory. There was a large omission, however. There's no bar. No alcohol was to be expected in a Muslim country but there were no soft drinks on offer either. "Food and drink is forbidden inside the auditorium" was one of the twenty rules displayed on the tickets. We'd assumed that they'd be available somewhere. The ushers (see one above) were very glamorous in their national costumes: we'd initially mistaken them for VIPs.
The production, directed by Roysten Abel, was inspired by the red light district in Amsterdam. There were 36 boxes on stage, 9 per row with 4 tiers. Each had red curtains drawn over it and was surrounded by bright lights. At the beginning, one box drew back its curtains to reveal a violinist, cross-legged, playing a plaintive tune. Then other boxes were gradually opened, revealing singers, zitherers, flautists, drummers and guitarists (all men). Crescendos came and went, "Allah" was called. When all 36 musicians played and sang together, our seats reverberated. We were seduced by this Sufi poetry although it would have been all the more enjoyable with a translation, some smoked salmon sandwiches and a couple of glasses of champagne.