Saturday, February 08, 2014

Opera Carnatica: In Concert with Sikkil Gurucharan and Shekhinah Shawn

The Music Academy, Chennai opened up to a packed audience who had come to flavour Opera for the first time alongside south Indian classical music. This unusual pairing was a vision inspired by a friend and brought alive by Euphony, a venture of Mitralaya

While there was a crowd hanging about outside, which looked a little chaotic, my mind was put to rest as soon as I entered the auditorium. I was immediately ushered to my seat by one of the event coordinators. The crowd slowly started to trickle in and by the time the event started, it was a full-house. It was also heart warming to know that as much as it is a city famous for its December Indian classical music season, the audience was also open minded to embrace other forms of musical experiments. 

The event started right on time (brownie points here). The debut show by ace soprano, Shekhinah Shawn along with the symphony orchestra of 30 odd musicians led by Jerry Fernandes and the conductor, Augustine Paul was a treat to watch. The event was also a great landing platform for the choir group who complemented the symphony orchestra and opera in certain pieces. Sikkil Gurucharan, needs no introduction in the Carnatic world. He is also one of the younger generation of musicians who has been pushing the boundaries of artistic collaboration. His partnership with acclaimed pianist, Anil Srinivasan is well known throughout the world. I thoroughly enjoyed their work Blue Divine, which also featured, the handsome and talented flautist, Rakesh Chaurasia, nephew of esteemed Indian Classical Flautist, Hariprasad Chaurasia.


The Opera Carnatica was a great opportunity to understand how art can break barriers and redefine new landscapes. The two-hour programme commenced with a few symphony orchestra pieces followed by Shekhinah's performance. The soprano's voice carried through beautifully in the evening. There was also a brilliant weaving in of the violin dominated classical western piece, which reminded me of India's finest composers, Illayaraja and his phenomenal compositions. This set the context for the Carnatic piece by Gurucharan. He performed an evoking number, Suttum Vizhi Sudar Thaan, composed by the great south Indian poet, Subramanya Bharathi, accompanied by the symphony, which the audience thoroughly enjoyed. His interesting interpretation of the Opera was an eye opener for everyone in attendance. This was followed by a short musical dialogue, between both musicians, which was the defining moment for Opera-Carnatica - the twain shall meet", and indeed, it did. It was mesmerising. They performed this piece again, after a standing ovation and a request for one more performance from the audience.

The only gripe was Sikkil's short and sweet performance could have been sweeter if he had performed a couple of more pieces to balance the Opera dominated evening, similar to his previous performance in The Blue Divine. I also felt that the symphony pieces were a little jarring due to the dominance of certain instruments. In that sense, it was a mixed bag. The Emcee for the evening, could have placed herself at the centre of the stage and worked on delivering her lines with a little more enthusiasm. 

However, the Euphony team, true to their name, awakened Chennai's musical community to a daring, yet harmonious composition that has never been performed before. It requires courage, conviction and sponsors. 

I saw all three tonight.

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