Opera is like Bollywood
And that’s why it will resonate with Indian audiences, feels Anando Mukerjee, India’s only tenor
Anando Mukerjee, was an innocuous 13-year-old when he first heard crooner Al Martino’s Here In My Heart on state-run All India Radio, unaware that this would be the turning point in his life. “I was arrested by the sound of his voice. This, I realised, was opera and the voice was that of a tenor,” says Mukerjee, who today is recognised as India’s only tenor. He holds the distinction of being the only Indian tenor to have made operatic debuts at leading international venues like Belgrade National Opera, Serbia and Italy’s Teatro dei Rozzi, Siena. Mukerjee is currently in the city to perform with the SOI Chamber Orchestra along with resident conductor, Piotr Borkowski.
Although today opera has many takers, Mukerjee grew up in a time when there were hardly any teachers available to train him. “My family helped sustain my interest in music. My mother was a pianist,” says Mukerjee, who grew up with a dose of Bach, Vivaldi, Handel and Purcell. Born in Patna and brought up in Delhi, Mukherjee later went to England to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge. “Coming from a typical Indian family, I was expected to get a proper qualification. But I opted for music because of my obsession with singing,” he says. At 23, he took singing lessons from one of the finest pedagogues in the world, Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda. “He taught me the importance of style.”
In a country that is obsessed with Bollywood, Mukerjee feels opera will resonate well with the audience. “Opera is over the top and lends itself to the Bollywood narrative. It just needs to be packaged the right way,” he says, which is one of the reasons he is here, to demystify the art form which is looked upon as elitist. “In India, nothing foreign stays foreign for too long,” he smiles.
Where: Experimental Theatre, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point
When: 7 PM
Entry: Rs 500 – Rs 837