When Opera meets Hip-Hop

Canadian performer Sebastien Heins' solo play fuses Western music genres with physical theatre

Sebastien Heins in performance
Sebastien Heins in performance

"Hip-Hop is growing rapidly in India, and I can’t wait to bring my work to lovers of art, theatre and music in Mumbai. This one’s for those who are looking for something different," says Sébastien Heins, creator and performer of Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera, an award-winning play from Canada, which will have four shows in Mumbai, starting today, followed by one show in Bengaluru on March 1.

He adds, "This tour to India has been in the making for over a year. I’m excited to see what Indian audiences will take away from Brotherhood." Brotherhood is a one-man show, which uses music and physical theatre to tell the story of two brothers. It has been brought to India by popular theatrewallah Quasar Padamsee and his company QTP. Sebastian utilises Hip-Hop, R&B and elements of Reggae and Dancehall to enact the story.

Sebastien Heins
Sebastien Heins

Explaining how he came across Sebastian’s work, Padamsee says, "I saw a 10-minute presentation of Brotherhood in 2015 at the Magnetic North Festival in Ottawa, Canada. It immediately piqued my interest. In fact, Sebastian came down for Thespo (QTP’s annual theatre festival) that year, and even conducted a workshop on creating theatre out of Hip-Hop."

Ask Padamsee if combining Hip-Hop and R&B with Opera is common in the West, and he replies, "The tag Hip Hopera is a bit of a pun. It’s like a new form of musical. So there isn’t really any Opera connection. However, currently the biggest hit on Broadway is Hamilton, which is a musical where the lyrics are ‘rapped’. So clearly, Rap and Hip-Hop are influencing modern-day theatre."

Sebastien Heins
Sebastien Heins

Sometimes, makers modify the storyline or peripherals to suit the audience’s tastes. Were any changes made in the 75-minute-long play to make it relevant for audiences in India? Padamsee says, "The story is universal. So we didn’t feel the need to adapt anything. Also, currently India is as clued into these music forms as anywhere else in the world. So it didn’t make sense to adapt the story."

On February 24, 8 pm; and February 26 4.30 pm and 8 pm
At Sitara Studio, Kakasaheb Gadgil Marg, opposite IndiaBulls Finance Centre, Lower Parel.
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