Bangalore, where opera is yet to make inroads, enthusiastically turned up for a performance by the European Chamber Opera
It was one of those evenings that seldom happen — a day when one puts on their best clothes (“strictly formals”) because they are going to watch, well, the opera.
The ballroom at Movenpick Hotel and Spa played host recently to the Chamber opera form performed by six artists from the European Chamber Opera (ECHO).
The objective for the evening was cut-and-dried: to perform in front of an audience that was not very familiar with the opera. And Bangalore, where opera is yet to make inroads, turned up for the performance enthusiastically.
The setting was intimate. With the audience seated around the stage, not only could every syllable pronounced by the artists be heard, but the performers could hop on and off the stage for a musical tête-à-tête with the audience.
Five singers and a pianist began the evening with a short three-act production of Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata. Set in Paris, this is the tale of Violetta Valery, a courtesan, and her lover Alfredo Germont.
Act one began with the famous lively Libiam, an aria (an expressive melody usually performed by a singer) that introduced us to the characters and set the mood for the opera.
This was followed by Alfredo convincing Violetta to come away with him to the country, leaving behind the life of a courtesan, and also to recover from an illness she was suffering from. The lovers spend the summer together and just when the audience begins to get a taste of young, ideal romance, it is time for act two.
There was not too much narration in English to interfere with the audience's interpretation of the performance. With just a basic summary of the story to guide the crowd, the team from ECHO made sure their expressive arias communicated the essence of the story. The Chamber opera form, as opposed to an opera with a grand orchestra, worked best to achieve this goal.
Act two had another famous composition, Madamigella Valery, which was a heavy, emotional argument between Violetta and Alfredo's father when the latter comes to convince Violetta to leave Alfredo to preserve the good name of his family. He presents a picture of Alfredo's sister to Violetta, saying the scandal of Alfredo and Violetta's relationship would hamper his daughter's marriage proposal.
Violetta makes the sacrifice at the end of this act and breaks up with Alfredo.
Ana Jeruc played Violetta with skill and passion. She rendered the arias with such clarity and emotion that her performance surpassed the barriers of language quite easily.
On a par, if not better, was Stefan Sanchez, the artistic director and actor who played Giorgio Germont (Alfredo's father). His performance was marked by experience and maturity.
Skipping the parts where Alfredo confronts Violetta about the break-up, ECHO transitioned into Act three with Addio Del where Violetta, reading a letter of regret sent by Alfredo's father, says it was too late for an apology.
This final act also sees the two lovers meeting one last time before Violetta succumbs to her illness in ‘Ahh Violetta'.
The second half of the evening had performance excerpts from other operas rendered by each of the five singers in team ECHO. Madame Butterfly, Lakme, Viens Mallika were some among them.
Stefan Sanchez's rendition of Papageno-Papagena from Mozart's Magic Flute had the audience tapping their feet and finally Norma Fender singing Climb Ev'ry Mountain from The Sound of Music made Bangalore's day at the opera complete.
The idea was to give the city a glimpse of what an opera would be like. At the end of the evening, it left the audience longing for a complete opera experience.
Keywords: European Chamber Opera