November 1, 2011
Royal Opera House Muscat
Andrea Bocelli in Royal Opera House Muscat
Najma Al Zidjaly
 It's been four days since Maestro Andrea Bocelli's inaugural performance in the Royal Opera House Muscat. His tender, heavenly voice is still echoing everywhere I go--the impression he left is felt ubiquitously here. Oman is still beaming because of Mo. Bocelli's music.
Mo. Bocelli's visit was magical from the start. The moment his plane landed in the jewel of Arabia, Muscat, heaven widely opened its doors, resulting in clouds forming and later blessing us with light rain. This could have been perceived as a bad omen somewhere else but here in the Arabian desert, rain is a sign of hope, joy and magic.
So immediately we knew we were in for a treat!
Everybody was joyous, my students, my friends, my family. I knew it was because we were in the presence of a very special legend. Who would have thought ten years prior that Muscat, Oman would host Mo. Bocelli singing for Omanis in Italian style (this was the title of his performance). I, for one, did know. The moment I was introduced to the magic of classical music through the Maestro I knew in my heart that I would one day be welcoming him to Oman. This became especially true after I repeatedly missed his performances in Washington, DC and New York; even though I was close by, I was doing research and unable to attend.
As a true Arabian fashionista, I wanted to mark this joyous occasion with pampering myself with the most gorgeous Arabian red gala gown, killer golden pumps, and brand-name bag wherein I kept my camera, notebook, interview questions, and digital taper-recorder handy, in case I were to be called to meet Mo. Bocelli as I have requested.
But somebody else got the exclusive interview. My heart broke a little upon hearing such devastating news, because who would have been better to welcome the Maestro to Oman than an avid Omani fan whose life has been changed because of his music and voice? Missing that interview hurt but having been in touch with the kind people of Mo. Bocelli, I had hopes that somehow this would work out. Mo. Bocelli’s team was so nice to me, from the promoters to the webmaster of his fans’ website, that I believed my dream would come true of not just being in his presence close-up as he was performing but also of shaking his hand and telling him how much I love his music and voice. So I gave the list of questions I had from Omani fans, along with my phone number, to his people in case his time permitted him to speak with me.
They said they would see what they could do and I waited in anticipation.
But alas the phone didn't ring. And as the hours kept slipping away until his performance, people kept telling me "well perhaps it was not meant to be." But I refused to lose hope. So I bought a cup of Italian coffee and took out my prayer book and just like that, one hour before I was due at the RPH Muscat, I kept praying silently as I drank my Italian coffee. "Please God show me that dreams do indeed come true."
And He did!
While the seat I was given by the promoters was a very good one, I had the chance to get an even better seat. I sat only a couple of feet away from where the Maestro and his orchestra were going to perform. Then the magic began.
No one had expected, not even Mo. Bocelli I am sure, judging by his beautiful smile throughout the performance and afterwards, that Omanis and expats would give Mo. Bocelli so much love, so much applause, so much gratitude, so much joy, and so many standing ovations--it even went beyond what I had expected. Later, word back stage was that Mo. Bocelli's performance even outshone Placido Domingo's earlier performance. I know Mo. Bocelli is loved everywhere but Oman was different. I have never seen so many sore hands from applauding so much, or so much joy in Oman.
It was indeed a magical night.
And just like that, after the performance was over, the very kind Omani Opera Board director, H.E. Dr Rawya Al Busaidi, took me backstage to thank the Maestro in person for such a treat. When I was in his presence and as he shook my hands, I thought of nothing but that dreams indeed do come true and that prayers do indeed get answered, if they come from the heart.
I have no photograph to mark the event, but those few personal seconds with the Maestro and the whole performance during which I was close enough to see each and every line on his face and each and every expression of joy as he sang for us, will forever be cherished in my mind.
Perhaps it was a blessing that I didn't take a picture (I did not want to bother the Maestro after he generously sang for us for two hours): Now I have no choice but to remember – truly remember -- the experience. The way the Maestro kept mouthing Shukran (Thank you in Arabic) over and over. The way he whispered encouraging words to the soprano singing next to him. And once, when our applause continued for over two minutes, the way he shyly pointed to us to stop, while smiling a joyous smile as the very talented and kind conductor looked at him and us in joy too.
It was then I turned to one of the board members and said: Aren’t you glad Mo. Bocelli was able to come?
Then there was this magical moment: As Mo. Bocelli was at last leaving the stage, he stopped and decided to give us one last bow. This bow happened to happen right in front of me, so with joy I bowed back to him and said in my heart: "Thank you and God bless you for making me believe."
When I arrived home, I found an email waiting for me from his good people saying that the Maestro has answered a few of my questions but since we were running out of time, some were given only in Italian. Here are three answers from the Maestro himself:  
1. Mo. Bocelli, your music/voice makes me fall in love each and every time I listen to you. Now I realize at this stage in my life that love is the most important emotion one could have. This whole experience of not being able to get tickets to your inaugural performance in Oman and then being met with so much kindness from your fans in Oman and outside and from the people that work for you, I wonder: What does love represent to you and how would you define it?
Love is the driving force of the world: without love there is no life and, I would hazard to say, there is no music either, because also music is love; whether one gives it or whether one receives it as a gift, it is always and only an act of love.
2. Carmen is my favorite Opera so I have to ask: why did you choose to do a recording of Carmen? And it is such a beautiful recording that my five year Omani niece, Noor, loves it as much as I do.
I fell in love with Carmen when I used to listen to the great performances, in particular by Corelli, and by seeking out all the various different recordings available I became something of an expert and so I tried to sum up this experience and to bring something personal to my interpretation of the role but without distancing myself too much from tradition because in my view it is always important to follow tradition, especially when it comes to opera.
3. After conquering the world with your voice and music and bringing East and West together, what is your dream for the next ten years of your life/career?
Many years ago I learned from my mentor that one cannot make serious plans more than twenty-four hours in advance and I have always followed this precious advice which is also matched by the words of a famous Italian film director who once said: “We have many plans for the future; it’s a pity that very often our future has such different plans for us.”
Something tells me that despite some people telling me that I wasted a rare opportunity by not taking a photograph with Mo. Bocelli, I do know that I will get a second chance: because of my love, my passion and my belief that prayers do get answered, I know I will meet the Maestro again and next time, I will just grab my camera and say "smile"!
Thank you Mo. Bocelli for the joy you brought to us in Oman and the joy you keep bringing people all over the world. Thank you too to each and every person who was kind and supportive of me in securing Mo. Bocelli’s invitation. Thank you for the fans who showed me much love. Because of this out-of-this-world experience, I am a better and more joyous person. Most importantly, I finally believe.
by Najma Al Zidjaly, Muscat, Oman
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