The tenor on ways to popularize opera in India, beginning with adapting the epics
Anando Mukerjee is not the first opera singer to come out of India. Opera productions were staged in Mumbai as early as the 1920s. The Bombay Madrigal Singers Organisation staged operas in the 1960s, featuring legendary singers like Celia Lobo. Currently, however, Mukerjee is the only Indian face familiar to opera-goers in Europe—the Londoner, who is a tenor, has appeared in leading roles in various opera productions.
Mukerjee was exposed early to Western classical music. His mother was a trained pianist and Mukerjee, who is in his mid-30s (he makes it a point to not divulge his actual age), remembers listening with rapt attention to her playing Claude Debussy’s Arabesque and Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine. In a few years, Mukerjee discovered his aptitude for singing when he tried to imitate the voices he heard on the radio.
He made his public debut with the New Delhi-based classical choir, The Capital City Minstrels (CCM). Not one to tread the beaten path, he chose to study natural sciences at Cambridge University in 1999. While there, he decided to become an opera singer and started taking private lessons. As part of the chorus for a production of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma in 2004, he was impressed by the American tenor, Don Bernardini, who had been fortunate enough to have trained with two of the greatest tenors of the 20th century—the Italian Franco Corelli and the Swede Nicolai Gedda. Corelli had died a few months before Mukerjee’s meeting with Bernardini, but the latter did pass on Gedda’s telephone number.
Mukerjee called Gedda, who invited the promising singer to his home in Geneva, Switzerland, and took him on as a student. Mukerjee has not looked back since.
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