Muscat: The Royal Opera House Muscat hosted the world premiere of The Lights of Andalusia, a music and dance extravaganza that fused Arab and flamenco traditions, created by Lebanese composer Hiba Al Kawas.
The show combined artists from Spain with those from the Middle East. The flamenco side was represented by guitarist JosÉ Maria Gallardo del Rey, dancer JosÉ Maldonado, the Ballet Carment Cantero & Ricardo Lopez dance company, and other musicians and singers. Al Kawas was joined by Saudi singer Abdul Rahman Mohammad, and the Arab Andalusian Ensemble and Vocalists. The Transylvania State Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, conducted by John Axelrod, supported the show, too.
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Al Kawas's vision was one of a star pulled between two strong loves, one for Andalusia, and one for the Arab world. The star, a role she played herself, eventually realizes that both cultures can unite and together form a greater love and celebration of life.
The music and dancing were truly superb. Al Kawas set Arabic lyrics to flamenco music, which was both unique and enchanting. Flamenco is popular in Oman, and the artists on stage proved why; the energy and warmth they exuded captivated the audience. Abdul Rahman Mohammad's tender, soothing voice was unforgettable, too. One song featured flamenco music played with the oud, which again revealed how two cultures can bring out the best in each other.
Being a new production, there was some room for improvement. The storyline was a bit weak, as the pull between the two cultures wasn't strong enough. Rather than a continuous narrative, it felt more like a series of random songs and dances. The final scene didn't show the Andalusians and Arabs coming together with the star, which would have made a stronger impact.
There were also times when the chorus seemed out of place, not adding much to the music. Al Kawas's costumes were also a bit stiff, especially a giant red gown in the first scene, preventing her from much free movement.
With a few tweaks, The Lights of Andalusia has the potential to become a very popular show. The blend of flamenco and Arabic music, with beautiful modern flamenco dance, made for a rich program in which two cultures shone brightly.
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