I attended a very interesting show last week. Performed by the students of the KM Music Conservatory (part of the A.R. Rahman Foundation) the evening could have taught a thing or two to many of the city’s established theatre companies. Designed to showcase the musical talents of the Conservatory’s students, what the evening of opera also did was to show how attention to plot and sound, a little maturity in direction, and a deeper understanding of how theatre works can go a long way.
The evening was not perfect by any means — the acting was often amateur and the plot was not exactly brilliant or profound but here’s the thing: at no point did it ever get embarrassing or stilted, as amateur dramatics often do in Chennai. These students held their own with a slickness that was impressive. Theatre’s success is often in overall impact and that’s what they created. Musically, I did not expect anything less than good, and sure enough both singers and musicians were wonderfully talented.
Directed by Namrata Shah and Gilles Denizot, #ItsComplicated combined four light-hearted operas — Mozart’s Bastien & Bastienne, Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Christophe Gluck’s Orfeo ed Eurydice and Jacques Offenbach’s Orfeé aux enfers to tell the stories of two young couples in love — Bastien and Bastienne and Orpheus and Eurydice. The story revolved around lovers’ tiffs and evil middlemen, about the Gods coming down from Heaven to find out more about a new virus called love, and the famous Eurydice myth in which Orpheus travels to Hell to bring back his dead lover.
This was converted into a contemporary Twitter romance, with the tales played out on a college campus and every move and emotion tweeted instantly, as if done live by participants and viewers. The stream of tweets was displayed on a large screen on the side of the stage.
It was a clever dramatic device because while staying organic to the theme of a Twitterati romance, it also performed the practical role of surtitling since the arias were performed in their original French, Italian and German.
Tenor Sandeep Gurrapadi as Bastien came in rather late but what a stunning voice, clear as crystal and yet soft as breath. Arpita Gandhi as Bastienne is a competent soprano although her voice has a slightly brittle quality to it. Bass singer Akshay Sharma as the evil Colas was good casting but one longed for more power from his voice. Little touches like the entire cast suddenly opening out iPads or the moving elevator backdrop when the Gods travel down from Heaven added to the overall quirkiness. Yes, a show that definitely deserves a retweet.