In a rare collaborative musical that brought opera, ballet and broadway together with five Indian dance forms, Delhi for the first time witnessed an interesting cultural specimen at the Siri Fort Auditorium on Dec 4-5.
A part of the 5th International Ancient Arts Festival (IAAF), 'Healing through Creative Arts across Cultures', Ramleela in Opera art form saw 100 artists from 5 countries: Italy, France, Hungary, USA and India, working hard to put the spotlight at the confluence of culture and ideas. Written by Yoga Guru Bijoylaxmi Hota, the story of Ramleela in opera art form started with Lord Rama's marriage to Sita, followed by the banishment of the trio (Ram, Laxman and Sita) from Ayodhya and Sita's abduction. The opera continued with Hanuman from Kishkindha visiting Lanka, clearing the path for Lord Rama to battle it out with Ravana. It finally ended with the famous trio returning to Ayodhya followed by celebrations.
In a theatrical setting, an epic like Ramayana poses many cross cultural challenges. We were thrilled that there was both opera and attractive Indian dance forms like Yakshagana from Karnataka, Purulia Chhau from West Bengal, Odissi from Odisha, Manipuri from Manipur and Kathak from Delhi in the musical. The concept was fresh, but we were disappointed with the execution. All it needed was a little finesse.
"When one wears the hat of the creative director, it's a challenge to learn the nuances of the art forms that we are showcasing over 2 days. This year we are going through a learning curve with the first ever Italian opera of Ramleela." said Odissi danseuse and Festival Director, Reela Hota who played the role of Sita.
Surpanakha serenades Laxman while Lord Rama walks on
She further added, "It is exhilarating to meet and share the stage with international artistes with whom we have been collaborating with in cyber space over 6 months. The festival showcases unity and spiritual significance of the world's culture through dance and music."
Italian barihunk Mattia Olivieri who played the role of Lord Ram did an admirable job while professing his love for Sita through his opera-singing. Sharing strong screen presence with the Baritone specialist was Federico Benetti (Bass) who played the role of both Janak and Hanuman and Raffaele Abette in the role of Lakshman.
Abette who looked excited throughout the performance said, "The festival is an example of culture. It seeks to highlight the importance of music, dance and vital therapeutic practices in traditional systems of healing in meeting the lifestyle challenges of today. I am very flattered to take part in this project, because I think that music can teach education and logical reasoning to both children and adults."
The demon-king Ravana abducts Sita
The Healing through Creative Arts across Cultures aimed to bring about a higher level of consciousness through the medium of arts.
No doubt, the highlights of the festival were the actors-cum-singers, but what also caught our attention was the 28 member orchestra. The music was a mix of Indian and Western put together by the Delhi Symphony Society with star guest artists from Hungary, Peter Kiss and Peter Szucs.
"I think that this merger of opera with Indian culture is interesting and challenging. It's a wonderful idea that two worlds that are so far apart both geographically and culturally unite through the Ramayana. I worked hard to blend the musical and spiritual aspects, to highlight the deeds and virtues of Lord Rama and the other characters," said Maestro Antonio Cocomazzi of Italy, composer of the musical.
Ramleela in Opera Art Form was worth a watch.