Bring Paris to Delhi! The Neemrana Music Foundation did just that with a real treat – a fantastic opera staging “La Vie Parisienne” – recently at the Kamani Hall here.
Featuring an exceptionally talented Indian cast, this classic comedy by 30 singers performed with a French orchestra – Pole Sup’93 – in collaboration with local musicians, won over audiences after a performance on March 3-4.
The tone is set by the sparkling interpretation of “An Evening in Paris” by Canadian opera singer Natalie Di Luccio, a tribute to the iconic Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore who starred in the Hindi film. Same title in 1967, Rake.
Directed by Christophe Mirambeau, who traveled all the way from France, with Samuel Jane as the conductor, the opera was a Bollywood-like experience: stunning staging and gorgeous costumes by famed Indian designer Rajesh Pratap Singh.
The four-act comedy transported audiences straight to the heart of Paris with the clever interplay of the digital backdrop and the stylish and clever props in the foreground. As scenes of famous Parisian landmarks like the Gare du Nord and Gare Saint Lazare, the characters embark on their work in search of love, lust, and connection, indulging in numerous intrigues in the process.
Opera — a type of operetta by 19th-century French-born composer Jacques Offenbach that was performed in the nation’s capital, perhaps for the first time in India — has an interesting history behind it.
The musical extravaganza was the culmination of an idea that Aude Priya Wacziarg, principal director of the foundation, had while buying T-shirts during the Covid pandemic, many of which had the Eiffel Tower on. “Do all Indians want to go to Paris?” she asks. At the same time, I came across a T-shirt with “La Vie Parisienne” printed on it – the title of one of the most famous operas.
La Vie Parisienne is a very funny and entertaining story. For Indian audiences, the dialogues were entirely in English, interspersed with famous musical moments from the composer Offenbach, dubbed “French Mozart”.
The film revolves around a group of French personalities who meet a number of foreign visitors who came to Paris. Two young men, Bobnet and Raul de Guardivo, compete for the privileges of the beautiful Metilla, who refuses them in favor of a richer and older man. The two rejected men then become allies and decide it is time to give up the fast.
Gardefeu bribes his former servant Joseph and takes his place as a tourist courier who transports the wealthy Swedish Baron and Baroness Gondremarck to his home, pretending it is the Grand Hotel. While the Baron secretly desires to meet Metella, Gardeveu falls in love with the Baroness. What ensues is a series of deceptions and hilarious encounters with servants dressed as gentlemen at a party that culminates in a rousing champagne dinner.
The comedy stems from both men and women seeking romantic encounters while trying to maintain a semblance of societal propriety – the former retaining a sense of chivalry when responding to the ladies’ overtures and the latter behaving flirtatiously in the situation. angry modesty.
In the end, the seducer here is not just a woman, but the city itself, where passion and pleasure reign. All is forgiven in the end. It’s hard to escape the energy of this raucous comedy as the signature Can-can music reaches its climax and the entire cast comes together at the end. As the audience rises and erupts into thunderous applause, bandleader Jin appears, much to their surprise and delight.
A visibly happy Mirambeau later said he was “very proud of his production” as he had not expected to find such talent in India, where opera is less popular. Same goes for the fact that the entire show was made into just three weeks of rehearsals.
Narrators Vipin Kumar and Yashraj Jadhav – both alumni of the National School of Performing Arts – wowed audiences with their comedic timing right from the word go.
Akash Gadamsetti, who has trained in classical western singing since 2015, was outstanding in the dual role of Le Bresilien and Frick while Anmol Talwar was exceptional – both singing and acting playing Le Baron. Gabriel Harrison as Gardefeu and Jateen Shharma as Bobinet also give creditable performances, ably supported by Renie Mathew as Metella, Vaibhavi Singh as The Baroness and Shambhavi Mishra as Gabrielle. Nitya Vaz as Pauline and Aditi Jain as Leon were particularly impressive in their respective roles.
The only criticism that could be leveled at some of the actors was the lack of finesse in presenting the dialogues. They could have done a lot better if they worked on their style and showed their voice more because some of the words got lost especially when they turned their backs on the crowd. However, since most of them were trained singers rather than actors, this could be considered a minor offense.
As CEO of Seraphim Strategic Communications, in partnership with the Neemrana Music Foundation, Sunanda Rao-Erdem, herself a soprano with 20 years of operatic experience and who nurtures and nurtures young talent, said, “It was not an achievement to put on a show of this quality. It takes years of preparation.
What this first-rate Indo-French collaboration witnessed was the culmination of years of effort initiated by Aude Priya in finding and nurturing young talents in this revered art form.