According to Mumbai-born soprano Patricia Rozario, opera is very similar to Hindi films. Before you raise your eyebrows, she explains, “Bollywood is an exaggeration of emotion and singing with music accompaniment. Indians are already predisposed to performing opera, they just require the training and the motivation.” But she’s quick to point out that opera in India is relatively new. To create more awareness about the form, Rozario is trying to bring more Indian [classical/opera] singers into the spotlight with the help of her London-based foundation Giving Voice Society that helps musicians travel and even study anywhere in the world. As the current artistic director and curator of the Royal Opera House’s 2018 Opera Season, she will present Joseph Haydn’s
La Fedeltà Premiata
, as the opera chosen for this year.

But for the season to take place, a few necessary collaborations were imperative. Asad Laljee, a curator of the Royal Opera House’s programming connected the Italian Culture Embassy and Rozario’s group. “The Italian Culture Embassy is a key benefactor and collaborator,” says Laljee. “They’ve sent voice coaches for Patricia [and her group], two performers, and are very interested in the future of opera in India. It’s a part of their legacy, and they’re steering it into the new age.”

The upcoming adaptation of Joseph Haydn’s
La Fedeltà Premiata
will exclusively feature Indian performers: eight soloists and 15 opera members, comprising understudies and backups. “They all practice together, so almost anyone can take over for anyone else,” says Rozario. “In time, we’ll be able to perform more complex and challenging operas, but for now, we’re picking [those] suited to the Indian voice and mentality.”

Rozario, who began her career as an opera singer circa the Independence era, learned Western Classical music that was heavily influenced by the British empire. “Even after they left, there were performances with Indian as well as foreign performers in the 50s and 60s,” she reminisces. “However, when the political landscape began to shift, so did the world of music in India.” But then along with other like-minded musicians, Rozario recognised that music is a global asset. As an art form, opera is expensive and very difficult, but it must be preserved. “Back when Western music was looked down upon in India, the Parsi and the Christian communities kept opera and other Western styles alive, but now India is a global country. It’s time for India to be an opera country” says artistic director and curator. “Opera is not dead, but it isn’t about to make a complete resurgence either. While it is gaining traction, its only in order to preserve and celebrate it.”

It’s a rare feat to mount an opera in India, only previously accomplished by the National Centre for the Performing Arts. However, with the upcoming adaptation of
La Fedeltà Premiata,
hopefully opera will become a frequent addition to Mumbai’s cultural calenders.

La Fedeltà Premiata
will be staged at the Royal Opera House, Girgaum from Wednesday August 1 to Friday August 3 at 7 p.m. on all three days. See for more details.

Opera is not dead, but it isn’t about to make a complete resurgence either.

Patricia Rozario


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