Curtain Raiser: After over 23 years, Royal Opera House will ‘Rise up to the Gods’ once again

Mumbai-born British soprano Patricia Rozario to perform at milestone reopening on October 21.

Written by Ruhi Bhasin | Mumbai | Published:October 18, 2016 1:45 am
Royal Opera House, Royal Opera House opens, opera house opening, Royal Opera House, renovation, charni road, mumbai film festival, indian express talk The restored Royal Opera House (above); historical pictures of the space. Source: Pradip Das

GROWING up in Mumbai, Patricia Rozario had a daily connection with Opera House — it was one of the bus stops on her way to town. When she was 12, she also had her appendix removed at a hospital in the vicinity of Opera House but she never actually visited the building.

Now, when the Royal Opera House is relaunched after a gap of over 23 years this weekend, the Mumbai-born British soprano Rozario will perform at the historical venue.

“For me the Opera House area was just a stop while I travelled to town by bus… I never actually visited it as we rarely went to the cinema!” Rozario told The Indian Express by email ahead of the milestone re-opening of the heritage property.

After a pooja on October 18, the curtains will go up once again in the baroque-style building for the opening night featuring a film festival on October 20 followed by an opera performance by Rozario the next day, organised by the owners of the property Maharaja Joytendrasinhji Jadeja and Maharani Kumud Kumari Jadeja.

Those attending the relaunch will find that a team of conservationists has worked hard to restore Opera House to its original glory, with the original box-frame seats and chandeliers. According to architect Abha Lambah Narian who worked on the project, “The ceiling has been restored to the original baroque design. Help of two conservators has also been taken to restore the stained glasses and the painted panel.”

Rozario, meanwhile, said she feels “blessed” to have been invited to perform. She has planned a 30-minute programme of opera arias and songs with her husband Mark Troop at the piano. The exclusive event will be attended by a private audience.

Rozario added that she had been following the plans of the Opera House renovation over the past few years. “I was excited about this news and asked various friends to try and find out who we could contact to find out more about the project, but we always drew a blank. Then out of the blue, I received an email from a friend, Sanjoy Roy, a great promoter of Indian arts around the world, introducing me to Asad Lalljee, curator of the Opera House and CEO of AVID Learning. It was like a dream come true. When I was a young singer I was tricked out of my debut performance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; so this will be my Royal Opera House debut and I shall be ever so proud of it,” she said.

The singer visited the building recently while renovations were underway, with Lalljee. “I couldn’t believe my eyes at the sight of this elegant structure with marble floors at the entrance and beautiful filigree and tiers of seats ‘Rising up to the Gods’, as we say in Europe. We were very cautiously allowed on to the stage and I couldn’t resist singing a few notes and phrases to test the acoustics. It was a thrilling experience despite all the work going on around us. I look forward to the performances,” she said.

According to Lambah, to make sure that such a performance could indeed take place, the conservation team sought the help of various experts. “Great acoustics is intrinsic to a place like Opera House, which already had a great system in place. But we needed to update it to 21st Century requirements. We sought the help of Rahul Jhaveri for this. For the sound system, we roped in the expertise of Harman Company, who are the finest in the business. We also got valuable advice from Richard Nowell, an acoustician from Britain. The NCPA put us in touch with him,” she added. To make this a venue for live performances, acoustic treatment of the wall surfaces and ceilings was carried out.

For Razario, who grew up in Santacruz West and has been singing since the age of 7, this will be a homecoming. “My mother, Ena Rozario, played the piano very well and taught me and my four brothers to sing beautifully. My father, Collin Rozario, worked for Alitalia Airways and used to go to Rome for meetings and always brought back scores of Operatic arias. Both my parents sang and as my voice started to develop and get stronger they gave me these Italian arias to sing and I loved it,” she said.

With husband Mark Troop, she started Giving Voice to India, a vocal course. “Since December 2009 we have visited India three-four times a year to conduct our singing course in several cities and we have seen great commitment and interest from lots of singers who want to improve their singing. We have managed to put on two Operas with an all-Indian cast and we are planning a third Opera production for 2017. We have some great natural talent in India and we hope to develop it to a world-class level so that our Indian singers are able to sing in the Opera Houses around the world,” said Rozario.

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