Bollywood is the inspiration for Neemrana Music Foundation’s latest crossover venture -- a three-act classical opera -- that will be staged at the Siri Fort auditorium here this Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Part of the ongoing Bonjour India Festival of France, “If I were King” is an Indo-French opera in three acts.
Described as one of the most important operatic traditions of Europe that began in the court of Louis XIV, French opera 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.
Set in Goa in 1510, the story revolves around a young fisherman Zephoris, who is completely besotted by princess Nemea.
Zephoris is made King for a day by Mossoul, the King of Goa, but he soon discovers to his horror that the minister Kadoor has betrayed the King and is plotting with the Portuguese to invade Goa. Zephoris is able to repulse the invaders. As a token of thanks, Mossoul gives him his cousin, the princess Nemea, in marriage.
For leading French opera singer and director of the musical Jean Francois Vinciguerra, India is not new. In fact, he performed a couple of months ago at the Neemrana Music Foundation’s last production “Love Quarrels in Opera”.
Stating that he has borrowed styles, dances and costumes from Bollywood movies for his opera that also features three traditional Indian musicians and a choir from the Neemrana Music Foundation, Vinciguerra says: “In the second act of the opera, the actors dressed in colourful Bollywood attires will dance a fusion of ballet and Bollywood to the beats of Indian music played live on stage. The opera has been styled like a Hindi film replete with songs, dances, elaborate dialogues and action sequences modelled on Jodha Akbar and the Anil Kapoor starrer Nayak.”
The 1967-born musician was trained at the National Superior Conservatory of Music in Paris with Michel Roux. He has directed several popular musicals by Rossini and Jacques Offenbach, two of Europe’s most widely known opera composers.
Informing that classical French opera of the 19th Century has a profound India connect, Vinciguerra says a number of them are set in India probably because of the French colonisation in the 17th and 18th Century.
The opera has a cast of 160, which includes 35 musicians from the Promethee Orchestra in Paris and also a choir of 80 Indian, French and Sri Lankan children. Fifteen dancers from Sadhya, a dance company owned by Santosh Nair, are also part of the opera. The opera opens with 40 children who introduce the tale through a popular Goan fishing song. 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.