A tribute to Islamic architecture, the Royal Opera House Muscat, that opened in October 2011, houses an auditorium that is equipped for a sensational acoustic experience. Gianni Quaranta, the Oscar-winning set designer is poised to put his magic touch to a special production of the opera Carmen, commissioned for the inaugural season of the Royal […]
A tribute to Islamic architecture, the Royal Opera House Muscat, that opened in October 2011, houses an auditorium that is equipped for a sensational acoustic experience. Gianni Quaranta, the Oscar-winning set designer is poised to put his magic touch to a special production of the opera Carmen, commissioned for the inaugural season of the Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM). Carmen is famously passionate and witty and the three performances in December 2011, in the regions premier opera house in Muscat, Oman, are sold out. Online blogs will tell you that tickets sell out fast and that the venue designed and built to showcase world-class performances, is as much a draw as were recent performers such as Lebanese singer Magida El Roumi or the renowned Mariinsky Ballet.
The eight-hectare site with its landscaped gardens and interiors, evoke classical Islamic architecture, replete with ornate lighting and every aesthetic detail to please the senses. At the core of this Opera house is the 1,100-seat concert hall. One of the distinctive features of the concert halls shell is a mobile structure that can be detached to allow an adjustable proscenium to drop into place to create a traditional theatre format. The building design has evolved with these large moving structures to create a unique adaptable volume, which gives the venue unparalleled natural acoustic potential. This unique venue can be formatted as a 1,100-seat concert hall for musical performances or reduced in seating capacity for dramatic and operatic productions.
This room is extremely flexible, able to accommodate symphony concerts, recitals, chamber music, as well as fully-staged productions of opera, dance, musicals and other aspects of more popular entertainment.
“Conscious of the speed with which technology and equipment changes, we set about building a full but rock solid infrastructure that would not obstruct or hinder all anticipated users and configurations. This is supported by high quality equipment throughout.”
From vision to reality
It was design firm WATG and Partner LLC that won the international design competition in 2003 and was invited to lead the team for the complete design and supervision services. When the tender documents for the technical systems went to bid in 2007, the contract for installing sound and communications was awarded to Oman-based Mustafa Sultan Security & Communication Systems Co. LLC with technological support provided by UK-based specialist engineering firm, Consultancy on Media Systems (COMS).
- Prasad Khare, senior manager of Mustafa Sultan, projects & planning, says: “The Royal Opera House was a fresh-build project. The theatre is designed to rival other international theatres and concert halls. The auditorium and stage have been conceived to accommodate a wide range of concert and theatrical performances. A principal feature of the auditorium is a moving orchestra shell with pipe organ. This allows the space to be configured as a concert hall capable of supporting a full orchestra or as a fully equipped stage with side stages and stage machinery above and below.
“The sound and communications system equipment included an audio mixing and control system with loudspeakers installed within the auditorium for sound reinforcement of speech, spoken word and music, whilst allowing for the simultaneous replay of music, effects and dedicated cinema audio. A dedicated low voltage cabling infrastructure is used to carry audio, video, data, communications and loudspeaker services throughout the theatre and surrounding areas. Outlets within the stage, auditorium and surrounding areas are presented on a series of installed SCB (Sound & Communication Boxes) facilities panels. The cabling has been arranged as a combination of radials and/or star wired to each SCB location in accordance with the enclosed outlet box schedules and schematic drawings.
The project of this scale and complexity called for planning and coordination of the highest order, said Khare. “The scope of work included, but was not limited to, full design, engineering, production of shop drawings, manufacture, procurement, installation, setting to work, testing, commissioning, hand over to client and training of the clients representatives in the use of the systems.”
One of the main components of the contract awarded to Mustafa Sultan included installed sound that consisted of the digital mixing desk and back-end processing electronics, and the installed loud speaker systems. Prasad Khare elaborates: “The installed loud speaker is configured as two separate systems, to reflect the distinct changes to the auditorium between the theatre and concert modes.
“The theatre mode employs a series of loudspeakers hidden within the proscenium zone, including mid/ high and sub bass loudspeakers. The primary coverage is provided by three flown clusters that are suspended above the front-of-the-house grid and lowered into the auditorium when required. Delay and fill loudspeakers are provided to reach the rear of the circle seating and those areas shaded by balconies above. In concert mode, the proscenium sides and flown LCR clusters are retracted when the orchestra shell is in place.
Flown clusters within the shell may be brought in suspended from the shell roof structure as required. These may be used in conjunction with the auditorium delay and effect loudspeakers, if required. “Associated loudspeaker processing provides the necessary signal processing, equalisation, time alignment and cross-over required to drive the associated loudspeaker system. The loudspeaker processing system has a series of configured presets that can be remotely recalled by the show control system to provide a simple and reliable method of switching between the theatre and concert modes.”
Describing the cinema system, another key aspect of the package provided, Khare says: “A separate dedicated cinema surround sound system is provided within the auditorium. This is based around a Dolby EX / 5.1 system. Portable left, centre, right and sub bass speakers are placed on stage behind a dedicated perforated film screen (supplied as part of another package).
Surround loudspeakers are integrated into the side and rear walls of the auditorium and these include a combination of wall mounted, ceiling and recessed units. Meticulous coordination was called for with the interior design team as loudspeakers were installed in the auditorium and other public areas.” (For other aspects of the package provided by Mustafa Sultan, please see below in section titled: Important components of the sound and communications package)
On 14 October 2011, Spanish tenor, Placido Domingos inspiring performance of Puccinis last masterpiece, Turandot, was the fitting finale to a journey that began 10 years ago when Theatre Projects Consultants was commissioned by the Diwan of Royal Court Affairs in Oman, to offer advice on the viability, concept and brief for the auditorium. Tom Davis, who was part of that team recalls: “We were appointed by the Diwan of Royal Court Affairs to carry out a preliminary feasibility study and then onto write the brief for the project that was used for the architectural competition.” As consultants for the project, Davis team was responsible for concept design, acoustic consultant selection, theatre planning, and theatre equipment design and specification.
He says, “The building has grown beyond its initial expectations into something truly unique and is able to support the highest level of programming and productions being undertaken. It is a credit to the contractors and teams involved, and we are sure, the Royal Opera House Muscat will remain a benchmark for other projects across the GCC and wider region.”
Important components of the sound and communications package
Listing the key aspects of the package that Mustafa Sultan provided, Khare says: “The package included installed sound (already highlighted in article), installed communication, installed video, installed infrastructure, portable audio, portable communication, portable video and portable others.”
Intercom, show relay system, simultaneous translation system, paging system, control system
Video cameras, MATV (Master Antenna Television System ) which later became IPTV
Computers, sequenced mains switching system, various patch bays and patch cords (audio, video etc), LAN network, facility panels, wiring, clean earth mains touring power panels, specialist cable management systems
Analogue mixing console, digital mixing console, stage loudspeakers, audio processing, audio record and playback, digital audio workstation, powered monitor loudspeakers, headphones, in-ear monitoring, wireless microphones, microphones, multicores, tails and stage boxes, foyer/rehearsal sound system and miscellaneous audio equipment
Intercom, simultaneous translation system
Video cameras, video monitors, video presentation system, video source and record, video projection, video interfaces.
The portable others consists of spare items like laptops, PCs, microphone cables, intercom cables, video cables, ethercon cables, power cables, etc, tool and test kit.
About the project
Client: Royal Court Affairs, The Royal Estates Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Consultant: Theatre Project Consultants, United Kingdom
Architects: WATG and Partner LLC, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman; www.watg.com
Main Contractor: Carillion Alawi LLC, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman; www.carillionplc.com
Stage engineering: SBS Germany
Production lighting: Al Moayad & LSI Projects
Brands for key systems within the S&C package
1. Meyer Sound speakers and loudspeaker monitoring
2. Sennheiser microphones
3. Midas digital mixing console
4. Bosch paging
5. Christie projectors
6. Peavey Nion
7. Crestron controls
8. Philips screens
9. Clearcom intercom
10. Rittal racks
11. Extron switchers
12. Neutrik adaptors /connectors
14. Tascam recorders
15. Media star IPTV equipment
More pictures of the Opera House at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/AVPro-Middle-East/188800204528477