NCPA to host Operalia for the first time in India

Operalia will be held at the NCPA from September 15th to 21st
Symphony Orchestra of India | Pic credit: NCPA
Symphony Orchestra of India | Pic credit: NCPA

Over 400 years ago, as the Renaissance was gripping Italy, rediscovering European art, culture and literature, a group was formed in the heart of Florence of musicians, writers, artists and statesmen. Known as the Florentine Camerata, this was the group that thought, why not tell the stories of Greek drama through music? And just like in a dramatic story entered Jacopo Peri, who composed, what many considered to be the first opera, Dafne in 1597. And so the art of opera was born.

Centuries later, a Spanish-born singer, conductor and opera administrator Plácido Domingo, whose repertoire now encompasses over 4,000 performances, founded Operalia — a world opera competition. Established in 1993, Operalia invites singers aged 20 to 32, representing all voice types from around the globe. The competition receives entries from hundreds of applicants annually, with auditions for the top 30-40 singers heard by a panel of distinguished international personalities, presided over by Maestro Plácido Domingo. While the quarterfinals and semifinals are conducted in audition form, the final round is presented as a gala concert accompanied by a full orchestra.

And this year, Operalia is coming to India, for the first time in the history of the competition! While the annual competition has previously taken place in cities like Paris, London, Tokyo, Moscow, Cape Town, Los Angeles, and Mexico City, the upcoming edition will be held at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai in September 2024, marking its inaugural occurrence not only in India but also in South Asia.

"Operalia is a project close to my heart. It celebrates one of the oldest musical forms, that is the human voice," said Alvaro Maurizio Domingo, Vice-President and CFO of Operalia and the son of Maestro  Plácido Domingo when he officially announced the competition at NCPA. 

Maestro Plácido Domingo, Founder of Operalia, said, “after thirty exciting years travelling the world since its foundation, it is my pleasure and privilege to bring Operalia to India for the very first time at the warm invitation of the National Centre for the Performing Arts and its esteemed Chairman Khushroo N. Suntook. It is very special for me to return to Mumbai after many years away, a city where I made my debut singing at a concert in 2008 conducted by my dear friend Maestro Zubin Mehta, in honour of his father Mehli Mehta’s centennial and his contribution to the classical music scene in India. I look forward to reuniting with the Indian public in the fall.” 

<em>Alvaro Maurizio Domingo, Vice-President and CFO, Operalia announced the launch of Operalia in India</em>
Alvaro Maurizio Domingo, Vice-President and CFO, Operalia announced the launch of Operalia in India

This seven-day competition will attract singers and distinguished musicians from various parts of the world, promising an unparalleled musical experience. The closing round of the competition will feature finalists performing with the country's sole professional orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), led by Maestro Plácido Domingo.

Khushroo N. Suntook, Chairman, NCPA and Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) Co-founder, said, “We are happy to associate with the great Plácido Domingo—whom I have listened to and admired for the last 30 years—and host Operalia 2024 in I from the 15th to 21st September.ndia. It is undoubtedly one of the most respected musical events globally, and we are certain that this will be a remarkable experience for the music-loving audience in the country. We look forward to welcoming Maestro Domingo, the jury members, participants, delegates, and musicians from different parts of the world to join us at the NCPA and present their operatic prowess. It will be the SOI’s privilege to be a part of Operalia and create history yet again. We shall continue our efforts to pave the way for many such coveted global experiences in the future at the NCPA.”

<em>Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA</em>
Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA

Operalia's operatic prestige has proven to be a pivotal moment for globally recognized singers such as Sonya Yoncheva, Nina Stemme, Pretty Yende, Erwin Schrott, Joyce DiDonato, Rolando Villazón, Aida Garifullina, and many others. Grammy-winning soprano Angel Blue, a prizewinner of the 2009 edition, has also previously performed at the NCPA.

But will opera revive its glory in India? With Mumbai housing the only surviving opera house in India and the popularity of the art form sliding over the years, Operalia could be the catalyst that India needed to revive Opera. Opera is a lot like Indian films, said Khushroo Suntook.  There’s dance, music, love story, comedy and tragedy. Re-introducing opera in India can create job opportunities for many young artists. Like Khushroo said, “We are at the beginning of the Renaissance.”

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