He has mastered the art of singing which requires the highest voice range and is the only tenor from Mumbai, who sings arias from a variety of operas with as much ease as probably an Italian opera singer. Amar Muchhala is carving a niche for himself in an already niche artistic world. And how! Having made his debut at the Royal Opera House in Central London, the opera singer has travelled across the globe performing lead roles in coveted productions. As ‘Tamino’, his performance in British Youth Opera’s The Magic Flute garnered much acclaim. Alumnus of the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, Amar’s area of focus is lyric roles from the Italian, German and Slavic repertory.
As he gears up for a collaborative show in Mumbai with the Symphony Orchestra of India Chamber Orchestra under conductor Evgeny Bushkov, he has a tête-à-tête with StageCulture on everything Opera.
From a Business Management student and Hindustani classical musician to an Opera Singer, your career switch has transcended worlds. How did this journey happen?
I went to America for my undergraduate studies and Western classical was the only form of music available there. So I started singing in choirs as a hobby. A few of my teachers identified an exceptional quality to my voice and they said I must pursue it. It was a shot in the dark that is paying off now. And I find it exciting that I have adopted the world of opera as my focus. Of course, I am groomed by the West with respect to my training and nothing of my art form is Indian apart from my sensibilities. But it’s exciting to me to be a product of the world and to be Indian and wanting to make a mark being myself.
What has the response to opera been in India so far? And what’s the future?
Opera as it is, in itself, is a very niche art form anywhere in the world. In India, it is furthermore a smaller margin and considering that, the reception of my concerts in Mumbai is fantastic. In general, people are very curious about who am I, where do I come from, what do I do…. there is an element of intrigue.
With respect to the future, it is certainly brighter than what it was 10 years ago when I started off. There is prevalence of western music in the country more than ever before. And with the inception of Neemrana Music Foundation and they doing their bit in Delhi, whatever small the audience might be, at least they are aware of it. From a perception and a listening point of view, opera in India is certainly growing.
How has opera evolved to suit current times and generation? What are the latest trends?
Owing to opera performances being relatively expensive, it’s not entirely incorrect that the audience it draws tends to be the older age group. They have a disposable income, more patience and time at hand for a performance like opera. Although there has been a huge drive to encourage younger audiences to come into the theatre. And one does see younger faces in the audience now.
The productions are more contemporary in nature, much more identifiable with the young, with more focus on gloss around the artists, with elaborate costumes, etc.
Another aspect is that whichever country the operas are performed in, they can be adapted to the local culture. The basic music remains the same but the intent of the storyline can change. Many operas are exploring this aspect and becoming more accessible for the audience they are performing for.
As an opera singer, do you think the art form is governed by a specific language?
Not particularly. It is certainly easier to sing in Italian because the spoken language in itself is musical. Hence, Italian does suit and lend itself naturally to opera. However, there are various other languages in which opera has been written. And translation too, is a common practice. In England, there are many smaller companies who translate original operas written in Italian to English. In Germany, they may choose to do the dialogues or conversational elements in German and the rest of it is in Italian.
As an artist, I am comfortable with any language. I sing in English, Italian, French, German and at the concert in Mumbai, I will be singing in Russian as well. Language has never been a problem for me.
Does opera singing require any exceptional requirements or skills vis-à-vis other types of singing?
Opera requires a serious amount of dedication and an innate desire to learn music, success or no success is secondary in nature. Unfortunately, we don’t have very many teachers here who can impart that level of knowledge. So that is the primary requirement – good teachers. Second of all is sponsorship and money to make the art form accessible with respect to training – finding the right teachers and paying for them.
What do you want to #GetMore of?
I would like to get more of singing and good quality work. There is no substitute for good work, good art and hard work. So long as I am singing, fame and money will follow. I belong to the old school and really believe in the power of word-of-mouth and critical acclaim.
Catch Amar Muchhala perform some rare pieces from the Lyric Tenor Repertory at NCPA and Prithvi Theatre this weekend (July 8 and July 10).
Credits for all Images: Christina Raphaelle