ElRetablo de Maese Pedro and La Vidabreve ~ these are the names of two heart-touching operas by Manuel de Falla, one of the most distinguished Spanish composers of the early 20th century, his music being a fusion of poetry, asceticism, and ardour.
Cut to the present. Oscar Lobete is the music conductor for the two operas being co-produced by Neemrana Foundation, with support from Instituto Cervantes, Air India, The Park and the Baha'i House of Worship. Lobete started working with singers almost 20 years back, as he felt drawn to the most natural instrument – the human voice.
"You know what the toughest part is, of being a music conductor for an opera written by another artist?" he asks. "One has to immerse oneself not only in the characters created, but also in the psyche of the creator of those characters. Where what instrument produces what kind of sound and all the associated nuances have to be carefully designed in order to do justice to such great works. In addition, it is not to be forgotten that the piece depicts Spanish culture, which is communicated to the world through the powerful medium of opera."
So, it must have been even more challenging to produce the piece in India for an Indian audience. Lobete confesses his ardent love for India and its contrasts, while going on to explain: "It is difficult to do justice to Manuel de Falla's music. I can imagine it being difficult for a Spanish singer to do justice to the piece; imagine for an Indian singer, who has to understand the history, background and culture."
Edwin Joseph, who has been associated with Neemrana Foundation for three years, and plays the role of Don Quixote in Master Peter's Puppet Show is full of compliments for the play. He says it is a beautiful amalgamation of puppetry and western classical music ~ a rare combination. Joseph, who could very well be an inspiration for budding artists, found his inspiration in singing and acting early on, but with the guidance of the foundation, his performance in the opera is taking him to new heights.
Jasmin Martorell ~ the voice coach of the singers for these productions ~ commends the hard work and the team effort of the singers. He says, "It is always about the transfer of positive energy, from you to your audience and then back to you. This is the only thing that is instrumental in making a show successful ~ besides, of course, the technical skills."
What emphasises the IndoSpanish connect is the fact that both the operas have been directed by Indians: Sunit Tandon (Life is Short) and Varun Narain (Master Peter's Puppet Show). Besides this, Spain has a rich musical heritage. In particular, as part of its lyrical repertoire, it has a genre called 'Zarzuela' (a kind of theatre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, and incorporates popular songs as well as dance). Just like Hindi films, which would help it gain a lot of popularity in India. By the way, flamenco has its roots also in India.
As the operas open to packed audiences, in awe of the orchestra, the ambience and the artists, it is heartwarming to see that no matter where in the world one is watching a performance, a true lover of the arts does not come up against any barrier to the communication of the message.