Omar Shahryar considers himself a peace-maker who applies his skills and boundless enthusiasm to his mission of creating social harmony and empowering individuals. He is sought-after as a composer, director and workshop leader for national opera companies and arts organisations across Europe who seek to engage new audiences, and founded his own company, Opera Schmopera, an opera company for young people. In 2015 he was awarded AHRC funding for his PhD research in the Composition of Opera for Young People at the University of York, for which he will be composing 3 new chamber operas for people between the ages of 7 and 22 years old.
Omar started his career as an operatic stage director, assisting at houses such as the Royal Opera, English National Opera, Opera North and Birmingham Opera and many others for several years, branching out into choral directing for Singingworks and the Mixed Up Chorus, before returning to his roots as a composer of opera and musicals. In his 10 year career, Omar has directed or assisted 39 opera projects, led 39 music education projects, composed 4 chamber operas, 3 musicals, and repped on 2 opera-grime mashups. In 2017 he joined the steering committee of RESEO, the European Network of Opera, Music and Dance Education, and began training in academic teaching of undergraduate music students as part of his PhD.
His specialism lies in composing for different communities and he has worked with most of the UK's opera education programmes as both composer and stage director. Recent works include Opera Schmopera's chamber opera for primary school audiences “Lizzie and the Dark”, the Wigmore Hall's opera for primary schools “Recharged”, the 'Batley Does Opera' project for Opera North, and the multi-ensemble piece 'O to make the most jubilant song' for amateur musicians and professional soloists from the Britten Sinfonia. He has also composed 2 musicals with Hatstand Productions, touring from London to Ibiza, and “Cheesecake: The Mousical” for Hackney Children's Theatre.
Omar is currently managing and composing a new project with Opera Schmopera (due March 2018) called “Identity Crisis”: co-created with teenagers in Huddersfield about young people's reactions to terrorism. As a result of his passion for collaboration, the project is a co-production with Gestalt Arts, and will feature an artistic team of director Ruth Mariner, award-winning playwright Ed Harris, new music ensemble Dark Inventions and project partners The Active Change Foundation, specialist charity in counter-extremism projects.
Some of his proudest professional moments include: engaging teenagers excluded from mainstream school with opera-inspired grime, creating EastEnd Notes – a cross-cultural male-voice choir in East London premiering a new work by Arun Ghosh at the Spitalfields Winter Festival in 2013 – and being the first artist to be interviewed for Opera Up Close's blog series, Artists who inspire us. Omar is a committed champion for fostering youth and diversity.