Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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Omar, Yusuf

(b Baghdad, 1918; d Baghdad, 1986). Iraqi traditional singer. He was one of the greatest performers of the Iraqi maqām and the only professional singer in the 20th century to master the totality of its large repertory. He attended a Qur’anic school, then an elementary public school. He was brought up with a passion for the Iraqi maqām and took Mohammed al-Gubantchi as his model and master, following his performances and learning by observing him. Omar’s musical tendency was naturally more conservative than his master’s, and that led him to become a more traditional performer. In 1948 Omar joined the Baghdad radio station to present two concerts each month; this was the beginning of a lifelong and regular collaboration with the local media (both radio and television), and he remained the principal representative of traditional music until the end of his life. He presented almost all the maqāms on the television and illustrated them with explanations in a programme designed to introduce the maqām to the public. He participated in house concerts and was a regular performer in the religious rituals of al mawled al nabawi and the Sufi dhikr. He travelled extensively, invited either by Iraqi communities abroad or by Iraqi cultural centres, but remained unknown to the public who generally attended international festivals, as they were more used to ‘ūd performances. He preferred singing with the traditional chālghī baghdādī ensemble and the highly emotional quality of his interpretation often moved him and his audiences to tears. Three CDs published in France illustrate the quality of his art.



(It.: ‘shade’).

A term used for an operatic scene involving the appearance of an oracle or demons, witches or ghosts. Such scenes can be traced back to the early days of opera and were commonplace in the 17th century in Italy (e.g. Monteverdi's Orfeo, Cavalli's Giasone) and in the French tragédie en musique (e.g. Lully's Amadis, Collasse's Enée et Lavinie). Operas based on the legends of Orpheus, Iphigenia and Alcestis provide numerous examples, extending well into the 18th century, including works by Jommelli and Gluck. Abert applied the term to certain accompanied recitatives by Hasse and Jommelli.

Ombra scenes proved popular with audiences not only because of the special stage effects employed but also because of the increasing use of awe-inspiring musical effects. By the end of the 18th century they had come to be associated with an elaborate set of musical features including slow sustained writing (reminiscent of church music), the use of flat keys (especially in the minor), angular melodic lines, chromaticism and dissonance, dotted rhythms and syncopation, pauses, tremolando effects, sudden dynamic contrasts, unexpected harmonic progressions and unusual instrumentation, especially involving trombones. Parallels can be drawn between these features and Edmund Burke's ‘sublime of terror’, thus placing ombra music in an important position in the context of 18th-century aesthetic theory.

Music incorporating ombra elements gradually began to appear outside opera, such as in oratorios (e.g. Handel's Saul), in parts of mass (especially requiem) settings and in instrumental music, most frequently in slow introductions to symphonies. It therefore provides a source for topical references for many composers. Mozart used the ombra style in his operas (e.g. the Oracle in Idomeneo, the Statue in Don Giovanni) and his instrumental writing (the slow introduction to the Prague symphony k504). Haydn's ‘Representation of Chaos’ in The Creation incorporates several ombra characteristics, as do the introductions to symphonies by Krommer and J.M. Kraus, among others.

Operas with supernatural scenes maintained their popularity into the 19th century, including Weber's Der Freischütz, Marschner's Der Vampyr and Hans Heiling, Berlioz's Les Troyens and various versions of Shakespeare's Macbeth and Hamlet. Schubert's Der Doppelgänger is a notable example of a song with ombra undertones. In the 20th century, ombra features can still be found in opera, such as Britten's The Turn of the Screw, and the style has become a cliché in film music, most obviously in the horror genre.


H. Abert: Niccolò Jommelli als Opernkomponist (Halle, 1908)

M. Bucciarelli: Scene di vaticinio nell'opera italiana del Seicento (diss., U. of Rome, 1991)

B. Moyer: “‘Ombra”and Fantasia in Late Eighteenth-Century Theory and Practice’, Convention in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Music: Essays in Honor of Leonard G. Ratner, ed. W.J. Allanbrook, J.M. Levy and W.P. Mahrt (New York, 1992), 283–306


O’Mara, Joseph

(b Limerick, 16 July 1861; d Dublin, 5 Aug 1927). Irish tenor. He studied in Milan with Moretti and made his début at the Royal English Opera House, London on 4 February 1891 in the title role of Sullivan’s Ivanhoe. After further study with Perini and Edwin Holland, he was engaged by Augustus Harris for a tour of the British Isles, singing Lohengrin, Walther, Don José and other roles. In 1896 he created Mike in Stanford’s Shamus O’Brien at the Opera Comique, London. From 1902 to 1908 he was leading tenor of the Moody-Manners Company, and in 1910 joined Beecham’s company at Covent Garden. In 1912 he founded the O’Mara Grand Opera Company, appearing often with it until 1924. In addition to producing the popular repertory, he mounted Catalani’s La Wally and Kienzl’s Der Evangelimann, given for the first time in English under the title of The Apostle of St Omar (1924, Dublin). O’Mara had a repertory of 67 roles.


Obituary, MT, lxviii (1927), 846

R. Potterton and E. O’Mara Carton: ‘Joseph O’Mara’, Record Collector, xix (1970–71), 33–42 [with discography]

L. Foreman: Music in England 1885–1920 (London, 1994)


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