Grantee Update: Oscar Castellino & Darwin Leonard Prakash
On July 27, 2017, the Royal Opera House Mumbai played host to the first full opera production since it's reopening. The Foundation is proud to have two of its Take-Off Grantees, Oscar Castellino and Darwin Leonard Prakash perform in the roles of Count Robinson and Geronimo respectively.
We asked them to share their experiences with us.
In this post I will describe how it was to sing in the first opera production at the newly reopened opera house in Mumbai and how the Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation have helped me at a crucial stage of my career without which this would not be possible.
In the summer of 2016 I got a unique opportunity to perform the lead role in an opera with the Welsh National Opera Young Artists. At the time I got this offer I was in Mumbai trying my best to promote opera as well as carve out a career for myself in India. The opportunity with Welsh National Opera was an opening into the mainstream opera world, however I needed to find the money to make this happen and it was at this crucial juncture that the foundation came in with the right amount of help at the right time that has made all the difference since. Dame Hilary Boulding happened to be present at the performance in Wales and that leads to a scholarship at the David Seligman Opera School. World-class instruction at this opera school geared me up for the first opera at the Royal Opera House Mumbai.
When the first rehearsal began with orchestra at the Opera House in mid July, the sound and atmosphere transported me back to what I thought the early days of opera would feel like. A new art form and people looking for a new form of entertainment. When the first notes were sung at the rehearsal I immediately understood that projecting your sound in this theatre would need the best practices in opera singing. Not singing in the right direction with the optimum amount of ring and relevant colour would lead to an unforgiving experience, but when the singer got these things right the Opera House would come alive. The test was in a few days. There were many things to be accomplished but in my eyes the most important would be to give the audience an experience that they would like to come back to.
A week after the performances are done I am now in London preparing for a tour of the opera La Boheme. What was achieved in Mumbai was far beyond what any of us in the cast or crew would have expected. A set of Indian singers sang in Italian for three hours and entertained four house-full shows. My young nieces came to the opera and sat on the first balcony. Their mother observed that they never looked away from the action on stage and even caught the jokes.
Even though I have sung about fifteen opera roles, this one was special. The atmosphere and challenge was unparallelled. One needed to communicate with the audience in a way that would draw them into the world of your character and characters around you. In the West audiences are used to it but in Mumbai one had to really sell this form of entertainment. There are a large number of opera buffs in Mumbai, but an even larger set of people who are very new to opera and theatre.
The second edition at the opera house, hopefully not too long from now is what I am looking forward to. The singers cannot wait to sing again and the audiences seem thirsty for more. This has all the ingredients of being a regular date with the Mumbai audiences. In ten years from now I see Mumbai’s homegrown opera prominent on the international opera map.
Darwin Leonard Prakash
It's been almost three years since I began my education in Western Classical Music. Performing on stage, especially as an opera singer is an absolute joy and extremely rewarding experience. I find that each performance brings forward new challenges, new places, new peoples, new friends, and more and more exciting music every single time.
I have recently completed my Masters in Vocal Performance from Royal Academy of Music, London and will be pursuing Advanced Diploma in Operatic Performance starting September. Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to perform the role of Leporello with Opera Holland Park as the Young Artist in their Production of Don Giovanni and now at the Royal Opera House Mumbai performing as Geronimo in Il Matrimonio Segreto produced by Giving Voice Society.
Being a part of this production was a memorable experience. It's such an honour for me and all my colleagues to have performed the first opera in a long time at this iconic venue. I only hope to be back here sometime again to perform in this stunning space for the wonderful audience of Mumbai.
The Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation has been instrumental in helping and supporting me financially during my stay in the UK for the past three years and I am really grateful to the Foundation for their prompt support.