Legendary singer Mahendra Kapoor’s grandson and singer-actor Ruhan Kapoor’s son Sidhant Kapoor takes Indian mythology to global glory by composing a Sanskrit-Hindi opera ‘Birth of Ganesha’ in London. Composing the fascinating story of how Ganesha got his elephant head was no easy task.
Sidhant rehearsed with a team of amazing singers from around the world in Hindi and Sanskrit, a foreign language to all the performers. Even though the singers made use of phonetics to understand the pronunciation of the words, Sidhant had to work hard to make sure it sounds perfect, even to a native Hindi or Sanskrit speaker. “It was important to ensure that we had an opera with a heart. For that, I had to make sure that the singers understand the emotion behind every word sung so that the story came across to the audience despite them not knowing the language.”
‘Birth of Ganesha’ had its world premiere at Peacock Halls, Greenwich, London. The opera was not only well received by the audiences but also appreciated by prominent classical composers Dr. Deirdre Gribbin and Dr. Stephen Montague. While Gribbin spoke of how Sidhant’s work ‘is thoroughly researched and detailed,’ it is noteworthy to mention that the key team, besides Sidhant Kapoor, comprised of a Norwegian violinist, a Korean cellist, an Italian pianist and singers from Japan, Greece, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Anastasios Michalis, a leading Baritone vocalist from Greece who played the character of Lord Shiva says, “It was an unforgettable experience and a landmark in my artistic journey so far. The work, whose theme was drawn from the didactic stories of the Indian Pantheon, blended celestial western polyphony with the spiritual musical language of the holy land of Bharat. It combined an atmosphere of otherworldliness with melodic beauty and robust structure, which is typical of classical plays. Honestly, it was more than an honour to be a part of this project, it was a blessing.” Speaking about Sidhant he adds, “Sid has already achieved much in the music world and we always expect great things from him. Despite his unquestionable music genius and his family heritage, he is humble and gentle. But apart from a music guru and dear friend, I have always regarded him as a little brother –yes, I am a bit older!”
Sidhant went about a characterization workshop, one of the most important aspects of preparing for the opera, where he explained the characters in detail to the performers as well as discussed what they thought about the lead characters of the opera. This lent a very unique personality to the opera. He also made the musicians and singers experiment with graphic scores in different ways using different Indian ragas. It was a unique experiment combining Indian ragas (scales) and graphic scores. “For this I introduced them to different Indian Audav ragas (Pentatonic scales) out of which they had to choose any one scale, the notes of which they would use to interpret the graphic score. They also had to keep one of the characters of the opera in mind while interpreting the graphic notation. In this way, even though all of them were interpreting the same graphic score, they all had different renditions of it,” avers Sidhant Kapoor.
A photograph speaks more than a thousand words. Sidhant also made a storyboard of the tale so that the scenes are clearer to compose as well as to enable the performers to understand.
“The words were written in Hindi to retain the authenticity of the story. I spoke to my father Ruhan Kapoor who writes lyrics in Hindi and requested him to pen down the libretto for the opera. I also worked on the main characters and put the most relevant information about them in a document in order to share it with the singers much in advance so that they are familiar with the characterization. I also shared the story, the storyboard and the characterization with the entire team by emailing it to them so that they are kept informed about more details of the project and start their research on the subject and characters.”
Interestingly, even the costumes and props were shipped from India to London for the characters to retain the authenticity.
Admits Sidhant, “I was always intrigued by mythological stories and the one about Ganesha was my favourite.” Mahendra Kapoor actually started celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi at his home with pomp and fervour from 1990, the year his grandson Sidhant was born. This probably is another reason Sidhant Kapoor feels a strong connect with Lord Ganesha whose festivity and celebration have only grown stronger with time at the Kapoor residence.
“I am inspired by the way ‘The Birth of Ganesha’ was well-received by global audiences. I am thinking of a series to take Indian mythologicals to world audiences with my music. I hope to transcend borders and touch lives and hearts with the positivity and strength of character of these stories waiting to be told,” concludes Sidhant Kapoor.