By Akshyah Krishnakumar
As part of the World Heritage Series, a Western Classical Opera was hosted on 12th September. Students started pouring in from 7.30p.m and by 8:00 p.m, CLT was filled to the brim. But lack of space did not deter their enthusiasm as they preferred to stand in cramped corners than miss the performance. Their fascination can be attributed to the fact that it was an opera held for the first time in campus, performed by internationally acclaimed Norwegian opera singers who were touring India, from September 3rd to 14th.
A brief introduction was given by Prof L.S.Ganesh on SPICMACAY – “the NGO with a purpose to have every child experience the inspiration and mysticism embodied in Indian and World heritage”. He then introduced the opera singers: Rita Heigre, a Soprano who has soloed with most Norwegian symphony orchestras and has received many awards; Anna Einarsson, a Mezzo-Soprano who has performed in many parts of Europe; Nils Harald Sodal, a Tenor internationally acclaimed for his interpretation of the title role in Albert Herring; and Ellen Marie Carlson, an experienced orchestra leader and pianist.
A hush fell over the auditorium as the performers gracefully entered the theater. Without breaking stride, the pianist took her seat and started a melody while the lady in blue let loose a voice so pristine and clear. The first thing everyone noticed, next only to her beautiful face, was the absence of a mike on her person. But her voice still resonated across the hall with clear-cut clarity and benign softness as she sang or rather performed a German extract from Gianni Schicchi – Puccini. Though many listeners had no idea of what she was singing about, they were still captivated by her voice and enchanted by her face as she lived and emoted the opera.
The applause that followed carried with it a mixture of awe and admiration for it was a novel experience for most of the students. Rita Heigre then welcomed everyone to enjoy their performance just as she enjoyed her tour across India over the past weeks. The song that followed immediately was about the lost and found love of a girl. Rita was joined by Nils Herald Sodal, whose deep baritone voice transported the audience to a time of romance and knights in shining armour. His voice and body language made even the most mundane themes seem magical. And finally the vision in red, Anna Einarsson, gave life to a tune and the entire audience was charmed as they sang, ‘You will never walk alone’.
From then on, it was a merry ride for the audience as the singers performed a musical drama from The Merry Widow. The poignant and flirtatious glances shared between Rita and Nils as he wooed and waltzed with her brought a fond smile to many an audience whose loud applause took a long time to die down. There was a brief interruption after that, when more students poured in and had to be seated on CLT’s pathways and stairs.
She resumed her performance and also instigated the listeners to join her while singing the chorus. And everyone readily complied. The last tune vibrated to its end and was followed immediately by a clear high pitched voice from an obscure corner of the room. As all eyes followed the voice, the vision in red flitted into view and flirted with a student whose lucky stars suddenly turned his way. Her flirtatious eyes, teasing voice and lithe movements mesmerized others as well. She glided across the stage pausing here and there to either wink or grin at the students. And she sang all the while. Her naughty pranks evoked spells of laughter from the audience, as she brought the song to a close. In the next song all the three performers sang together and left us spellbound. The uniqueness of each one’s voice blended perfectly as they weaved their magic over us.
‘Love is the theme around which opera revolves the most’. And to this effect, the following two songs were a particular favorite among the audience. In Maria from West Side Story, Nils sang with such passion that it was no wonder that Maria reciprocated his feelings with equal vigour, in spite of leading him on a merry chase.
In Tonight, Rita sang and lived the role of a love blinded Juliet. The synchronizing of Nils’ deep, bold voice and Rita’s pristine clear voice as they sang ‘What was just a world is a star tonight’ renewed everyone’s faith in romance. Both Nils and Anna reached the crescendo of their performance in the song from the Phantom Of The Opera. They exchanged promises and their love, creating an aura of magic as they sang ‘Love me that’s all I ask of you‘ .
The sombre atmosphere created by the last three songs was replaced by humour as they all performed a chirpy song from La Traviata. The nimble fingers of the pianist flew across the keys as she flawlessly moved from one song to another providing a platform to carry out the singers’ voices with flair. Nils’ attempts to woo the attention of Rita were thwarted, as she playfully teased him, only to become possessive when she saw Anna eyeing her man. And while they both fought over him, Nils gave a pleased grin and joined the song. When the laughter and applause finally receded, much to the surprise of the audience, they confessed that it was all impromptu and they had never rehearsed it.
‘Time to say goodbye’ was the last piece at the end of which everyone collectively gave a sad sigh. Before the song could come to its close, the audience pleaded for more. Hence they graciously gave in and sang ‘You’ll never walk alone’ and ended their performance on a positive note. But the evening was not over yet. Prof L.S.Ganesh asked the students to put forth whatever queries they had to the opera singers.
Most of the questions were centered around their practice, the hours spent training their voices, their diet and the probability of developing nodules due to extensive singing! And much to the disappointment of the audience, Rita confessed that she could not break glass with her voice. ‘No, but I can throw it at you, then it will break’, she said, to much laughter.
Finally adhering to our traditional way, the singers were honoured with shawls and Prof Milind Brahme was thanked for organizing the event. SPICMACAY was much appreciated for being a source of enrichment for thousands of students across India, in the realm of classical arts. As the audience expressed their appreciation by applauding in standing ovation, the singers bade farewell.