Amar Muchhala: The Opera world is just like Bollywood

Jul 02, 2017, 07:07 IST | Aastha Atray Banan

Amar Muchhala, the only tenor from Mumbai to have made it big in the world of opera, says that to be a star singer, hard work overtakes glamour and emotional well-being is a must

Mumbai boy Amar Muchhala, who is the only tenor (the highest of the ordinary adult male range) to join the big bad world of opera singing, is performing in the city this month. Muchhala, who was born in Mumbai and studied Business Management and French literature at Franklin and Marshall College, USA, pursued an operatic career after his opera studies at the world renowned opera course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. Having naturally transitioned to the lyric repertory, he remains focused on a variety of lyric roles from the Italian, German and Slavic repertory. Excerpts from an interview.

Q. Tell us the turning point in your life as far as opera is concerned?
A. I was fortunate to have been accepted at the world-renowned opera course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, which paved the way for my future. I still remember applying to the music programme with practically a blank application, without any music credentials or qualifications. I had the opportunity to work with some of the best teachers who helped me hone my skills. The second turning point had to be working at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. I remember thinking at my first audition, "Why would they employ a relatively unknown artist," but to my surprise I was offered the lead cover role in Benjamin Britten's opera Gloriana in 2013.

Q. Growing up, did you ever think you would be an opera singer? And who are your influences?
A. I would have never imagined being an opera singer! I didn't even know the meaning of opera or a tenor. I grew up learning Hindustani Classical music and played the harmonium. When we moved to America, I was introduced to western classical music and opera; my voice sits rather high and hence lent itself perfectly to the western idiom. I used to spend hours listening to recordings of great artists such as Bergonzi, Bjorling, Pavarotti and Domingo and aspired to achieve their level of finesse.

Q. What kind of discipline does an opera singer have to adhere to?
A. It varies from singer to singer but generally one leads an extremely disciplined life — not as glamorous as one might think! I certainly follow a healthy lifestyle and avoid late nights. I am particularly aware of my emotional well-being and ensure that I am mentally alert and calm.

Q. How challenging is the world of opera?
A. It is probably just as challenging as our Hindi film industry where, several factors come into play in the casting process. It is complex and unpredictable.However, I would like to believe that above all, the operatic vocal instrument takes precedent and there really is no substitute for talent and hard work.

Q. What should the audiences expect at your show?
A. Opera singers don't use microphones to amplify their voice. The amplification of the voice comes from bundling of vocal frequencies and harmonics that one learns to master and harness over the years. This produces a seemingly loud sound, capable of effortlessly riding over a full orchestra without any electronic enhancements — a truly acoustic experience. On this occasion, I will present some of the most beautiful operatic arias from the lyric tenor repertory, including rarely heard gems by Mascagni and Cilea, with the SOI chamber orchestra under the baton of Evgeny Bushkov.

WHEN: July 8 and 10, 7 pm and 8 pm
WHERE: Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point and Prithvi Theatre, Juhu
COST:: Rs 300 to Rs 840

Bola Vitthala

The concert will be a dedication to late veteran singer Kishori Amonkar


JULY 7, 6.30 PM: For those of you who cannot make it to Pandharpur for the annual Ekdashi event that witnesses lakhs of devotees each year, here’s a chance to vicariously enjoy the festival. Bolava Vitthala is celebrating its 12th anniversary of spreading the glory of soulful abhangs across 13 cities in the country all through July. This time around, the event will see performances by Raghunandan Panshikar (in pic), Anand Bhate and Jayateerth Mevundi. The tour is dedicated to Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar, with whom they commenced the journey of Bolava Vitthal in 2005.
WHERE: Ram Ganesh Gadkari Rangayatan, Dr Moose Road, Thane
ENTRY: Rs 200 - Rs 500

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