Bollywood inspires new Indo-French opera

New Delhi, Jan 2 (Calcutta Tube) Bollywood is the inspiration for the Neemrana Music Foundation’s latest crossover venture – a three-act Indo-French classical opera, ‘If I Were King’, by 19th century French composer Adolphe Adam. The opera is set in Goa.

‘I have borrowed styles, dances and costumes from Bollywood movies for my opera which also features three traditional Indian musicians and a choir from the Neemrana Music Foundation. In the second act of the opera, the actors dressed in colourful Bollywood attires dance a fusion of ballet and Bollywood to the beats of Indian music played live on the stage. The opera has been styled like a Hindi movie with songs, dances, elaborate dialogues and action sequences modelled on ‘Jodha-Akbar’ and the Anil Kapoor starrer ‘Nayak’,’ leading French opera singer and director of the musical Jean Francois Vinciguerra told IANS.

It will be staged at the Siri Fort auditorium Jan 12, 14 and 15.

The year is 1510. The picturesque fishing town of Goa is fighting to keep the marauding Portuguese vessels off its coast. One day, young and impoverished fisherman Zephoris, who lived in a hut along the coast, rescues a maiden from drowning in the sea, Vinciguerra said, narrating the story of the musical.

Zephoris does not know that the damsel he has fished out of the churning waters is the daughter of the local king. When he realises that the young woman is none other than Princess Nemea, the daughter of king Mossoul, Zephoris is distraught. He cannot marry Nemea with whom he has fallen in love.

‘King Mossoul comes to take his daughter. Seeing Zephoris’ broken heart, the king agrees to give the young fisherman his throne and crown for a day so that Zephoris can live his dream of becoming a king – briefly,’ the director said.

‘If I were king’ is the Neemrana Music Foundation’s fifth production and his first full-length directorial endeavour in this country, Vinciguerra said.

The opera has a cast of 160 which includes 35 musicians from the Promethee Orchestra in Paris and a choir of 80 Indian, French and Sri Lankan children. It also has 15 dancers from Sadhya, a dance company owned by Santosh Nair.

‘The opera opens with 40 children who introduce the tale through a popular Goan fishing song,’ Vinciguerra said.

The soprano is Mumbai-born theatre actress-turned musician Aude Priya, who discovered her voice for opera while working in a play by Pirandello and has since performed across the world.

For director Vinciguerra, a talented soloist, India is not new. He performed a couple of months ago at the Neemrana Music Foundation’s last production, ‘Love Quarrels in Opera’.

‘Indian audience is opening up to opera though it is a slow process,’ Vinciguerra said.

The 1967-born musician and opera director has trained at the National Superior Conservatory of Music in Paris with Michel Roux and has directed several popular musicals by Rossini and Jacques Offenbach, two of Europe’s most widely known opera composers.

Classical French opera of the 19th century has a profound India connect, Vinciguerra said.

‘Several of them are set in India probably because of the French colonisation of India in the 17th and the 18th century,’ he said.

French opera, one of the most important operatic traditions of Europe that began in the court of Louis XIV, has changed over the centuries. ‘It has picked up influences from across the world to become more universal and viewer-friendly even for non-European audiences,’ he added.

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