Pamela Hinchman, Harrah Friedlander and Sandra Oberoi talk about the beauty of an opera on their debut visit to the city
An hour before the opera magic unfolded at Vidyaranya High School, opera singers Pamela Hinchman, her student Harrah Friedlander (from the US) and Sandra Oberoi (who runs Harmony Music School in Bengaluru) are in a fun mode. Dressed in floor-length evening gowns, as they pose for our photographer, Pamela declares, “Music is such joy.”
The trio went on a royal tour to Chowmahalla Palace and Pamela shows us a photograph taken at the palace. While Pamela is dressed as a begum in traditional attire, Harrah and Sandra look striking as the young nawabs. “They didn’t have enough begum costumes so we became the nawabs,” jokes Sandra. The Soprano singers are on their first visit to India and performed in Bengaluru before their concert in Hyderabad. “We had no expectations before coming to India. Our goal was to let music lovers experience different forms of western music,” says Pamela.
Opera is a combination of many things, says Pamela. “There is acting, dialogues, scenery and dance. It is like what you see in Bollywood. Emotion is too high but music is universal,” she says. Pamela got a taste of Bollywood while waiting for her visa in Chicago. “I was waiting there for three hours and during that time I think I would have seen every Bollywood film. There was dancing, love story and I had so much fun. It was like watching an MJM musical,” she laughs.
Talking about the beauty of an opera, Pamela says, “The best thing about an opera is that it touches people’s lives and as singers we are able to connect to them. The audience is reminded of a loved one or feels connected to a divine source during the concert. It is quite magical as we experience feelings of ecstasy. While singing, we would be thinking, ‘oh, here comes a high note, I better be prepared for it.’ The audience is oblivious to it and experiences magic.”
After years of training and mastering the art, Pamela says it’s a challenge to sing during a personal crisis. “Sometimes we have to perform during an emotional trouble. That is when our technique and discipline helps. I would tell myself, ‘I will pick up my burdens at the end of the concert’ and continue singing,” she says with a smile.
Singing along with a teacher is special, say Harrah and Sandra. “It feels special to know that your teacher has enough trust in you and put you in the same pedestal along with her to sing,” says Sandra and quips, “A teacher is always better than a student.”
Pamela is a traditional at heart when it comes to opera singing and likes opera singers Mirella Freni and Natalie Dessay. She likes to sing the original without any improvisations. As a teacher, she finds Harrah’s voice ‘spectacularly high and fast’ and Sandra to be more classical. (“Her voice exudes heart-felt warmth.”)
Finally, has she heard any Indian singers? “I know only Pandit Ravi Shankar,” she admits with a smile.
(Deccan Voices Choral Ensemble was organised at Vidyaranya High School by Hyderabad Western Music Foundation and Harmony Music School, Bengaluru)