Runaway Spoon

Carmen dazzles at new Royal Opera House in Oman

December 22, 2011

The acoustically splendid Royal Opera House in Oman is a treat not only to the senses but one that should make opera houses all over the world sit up and take notice.

A group of  D.C. travelers to the Middle East were mesmerized by the magnificent new structure that opened only two months ago.  It staged a production of Bizet's Carmen that brought the international audience to its feet in praise.

"It's incredible that Oman would make this significant investment in an opera house, as opera houses everywhere are struggling, and several opera companies in the U.S.  have folded, " said Daryl Glenney, an opera buff and political consultant who travelled from the exclaves of D.C. to sit in an orchestra seat reserved even before the building opened. 

"This opera house is state of the art," she marveled.  "Bravo, Muscat!"

Inside the Royal Opera House (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Inside the Royal Opera House
Consultants from the Kennedy Center advised in the construction and administrative setup of Oman's new opera facility.  The opera house first opened with a production conducted by Placido Domingo.

Each seat has its own screen that shows lyric translations in Arabic, English, and a choice of other languages airplane style with the screen embedded in the back of the seat ahead.

The Carmen cast of more than 150 plus two live horses found plenty of space on the massive stage.  The orchestra pit stretches the width of the stage.  An awesome touch is that the conductor is lighted and raised up so that he seems to be conducting from the middle of the front row and the audience can view his moves.  But it is not a distraction.

There was a slight glitch in our ticket strategy.  We had purchased tickets online before the opera house was opened.  When we presented them to the ushers , they said three of our four seat numbers "didn't exist" anymore.  Ah ha, we Americans thought, the fire marshall may have nixed the original arrangement, perhaps for narrowing an aisle too much.  But never mind , the ushers had anticipated the problem and had an Excel spreadsheet with nearby alternate locations for the small number of seats that hadn't made the final cut.

The style reflects traditional elements of Islamic architecture such as the use of massive stone and timber, combined with delicate  carvings, mosaics and Islamic patterns.  The floors of marble from Oman  supplement the feeling of light and richness.

It's a not-to-miss experience for those who want to explore this region.

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Arab Games celebrated in Doha as American troops withdraw from Iraq

December 19, 2011

As Qatar celebrated its National Day, Iraq's national basketball team joyfully marked its own country's form of independence with a victory at the Arab Games in Qatar's capital, Doha, just hours after America pulled its last combat troops out of Iraq.

Qatar women (Photo by: Janet Staihar) Qatar women

While many thousands attended festivities on Sunday marking Qatar's version of the Fourth of July, a few score watched Iraq win a tight game over Morocco in a preliminary round game.  An Iraqi player punctuated the win with a game-ending dunk.

Local cab drivers had a tough time finding the venue amidst a large multi-sport complex.  Tickets  were given out free for basketball and others of more than 20 sports being contested during the two-week Games.  The regional event is good pratice for a small nation that will host the World Cup football (soccer) tournament in 2022 and is bidding for the 2020 Olympics. 

Recommendation to the organizers:  step up the marketing, signage and event merchandising.  I wanted to buy an Arab Games poster, but none were to be had at the event or local shops--even an official Games kiosk at a huge mall.

I was in Abu Dhabi visiting a law firm official and took a 40-minute Qatar Airways flight to Doha for the National Day and Arab Games.

(Photo by: Janet Staihar)
For Qatar's celebration of the country's founding, sidewalks flowed with Qatar families, expatriates and tourists.  Cars decorated with maroon and white flags and decals--the national  colors--  sped along streets of this oil rich country.  To a newcomer, Qatar's main city of Doha is fascinating with its tall, sleek, architecturally spectacular office buildings, hotels and  residential complexes rising from what once were sand dunes  and now mostly memories of camels and Bedouin tribes.

In Abu Dhabi , another modern Arab metropolis, construction cranes also zig -zag through the sky.  Underfoot, the older thoroughfares are a maze of new concrete, red cones, yellow warning tapes  and fresh routes--a challenge to even the most polished of joggers. 

Qatar skyscrapers (Photo by: Janet Staihar) Qatar skyscrapers

So much construction is underway that the sea blue glass window  panes of already built high rises must be cleaned by men swinging from ropes on regular flights.

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Italy expected to name new U.S. ambassador

December 14, 2011

Italy's new ambassador to the United States will be Claudio Bisogniero, The Georgetown Dish has heard.

It is expected he will take up the post on Feb. 6, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

Bisogniero has served as the NATO deputy secretary general since October, 2007.

Bisogniero is not a stranger to D.C. or to America.   In 1992, he was posted at the Embassy of Italy in Washington, D.C. as First Counsellor for Economic and Commercial Affairs, with special focus also on financial issues, relations with IMF and World Bank, and defense industry co-operation.

He was  born in Rome, on July 2 1954.

He is married to Laura Denise Noce Benigni Olivieri.  They have a daughter and a son. Hobbies and personal interests include classical music, reading, sailing, flying. 

After graduating with a degree in political science from the University of Rome (1976), he completed his military service as an Officer in the Italian Army in 1976-77.

In September of 1981, he was posted to the Embassy of Italy in Beijing as First Secretary for Economic and Commercial Affairs with responsibility also for bilateral and multilateral development co-operation programs with China.

From 1984 to 1989, he served at the Permanent Mission of Italy to NATO in Brussels, with the rank of counsellor with primary focus on disarmament issues, HLTF, CDE, CFE. He also served as a delegate to the Senior Political Committee.

In 1989, he returned to Rome and was assigned to the Office of the Diplomatic Adviser to the President of the Republic, where he remained until 1992. In this task, he covered a wide range of international issues, both bilateral and multilateral, relevant to all aspects of the international activity of the Italian President.

In 1996 he was assigned to the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations in New York, with primary responsibilities for political affairs and UN reform. During this period he served as a member of the Italian delegation in the UN Security Council in 1996 and as a member of the Italian delegations to the 50th, 51st, 52nd and 53rd UN General Assemblies.

In 1999, he returned to the home office at the Department of Personnel and later at the Office of the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as direct collaborator to the Secretary General.

In February 2002 he was appointed deputy director general for Political Multilateral Affairs (Deputy Political Director), responsible for NATO, United Nations, G8, disarmament, OSCE, anti-terrorism and human rights issues.

In June 2005, he was named Director General for the Americas, with responsibility for the relations of Italy with the United States and Canada, as well as all the countries of Latin America.



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