'Bollywood is the same as opera'

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Are Bollywood and opera similar to each other?  The question may surprise many of us because it is difficult to take our imagination to a point where the two are put on the same platform. 

However, opera director Paolo Panizza believes that Hindi cinema and opera run parallel to each other and it is with this mindset that he is bringing a traditional European art form for the first time to the Indian stage. He of the opinion that opera is as complex as Bollywood which combines the talent of an actor, musician and dancer to create a theatrical presentation.

“It is the complexity of music, dance, dialogues and musical score that defines classical opera and it cannot be denied that Bollywood too runs on the same lines,” says Paolo who will showcase Don Pasquale – An Old Man turns Groom at Kamani Auditorium from December 11 to 13.  Organised jointly by the Neemrana Music Foundation, ICCR and Instituto Italiano di Cultura, Don Pasquale gives Delhi audiences an opportunity to enjoy a rare treat.

“Don Pasquale is a mix of comedy and sentiments,” explains Paolo, who has worked with the acclaimed opera Anne di Verona - an international opera for a decade-and-a half. The now experienced director had made his choice of a career at 13 and has worked his way through being an actor and technician before taking complete charge. In Don Pasquale, he focuses on the sentiment. “Time and again many directors have presented Don Pasquale in their styles. Some have focused on comedy while others on sentiments. As a director I have tried to highlight sentiments while keeping comedy alive,” he says.

A comic opera in three acts by famous Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti, Don Pasquale revolves around its central character of the same name, a senior citizen who wants to disinherit his nephew. So he starts looking for a bride. His friend Dr Malatesta decides to foil these plans by arranging a wedding between Pasquale and young Norina, who is actually Ernesto’s beloved. This leads to a series of highly comic encounters as the greed of the increasingly battered and bewildered Don Pasquale is exposed.

Even though this is the first time that the Indian stage will play witness to opera, Paolo believes that the art form will enthral local audiences. “Opera is not for a few people but for all who love music, dance and theatre. I am excited to give art lovers an insight into the traditional music of Europe. We have tried to present an amalgamation of classical and modern styles. Though it may be difficult to understand the language, the dramatic display through song will surely influence audiences.”  

To give opera a different feel, Paolo has introduced two Indian faces in the cast – Aude Priya who plays Ernesto’s beloved and Vikrant Subramanian who plays Malatesta besides using seasoned Italian opera performers. Both of them have performed in Paris earlier. “The opera will be an interesting union of Italian and Indian artistes. Both Priya and Vikrant have been selected for their talent in singing and
acting.”

Excited about his first performance in India, Paolo hopes to return to India with another opera.

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