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Learning about opera, its culture

Would it be rude to clap in the middle of an opera or symphony music performance? How should an Indian audience dress for a concert?

mumbai Updated: Sep 19, 2010 00:56 IST
Aarefa Johari

Would it be rude to clap in the middle of an opera or symphony music performance? How should an Indian audience dress for a concert?

For Madhhurima Mukhopadhyay (29), who has been coaching herself in Western classical music culture for the past few years, these were some questions that always remained half-answered.

In a city where concerts are sporadic and often niche, it was not easy for an amateur enthusiast to get informed answers.

But all that changed on Friday, when the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) held a lecture on ‘Understanding Opera’ at a venue that was public and free of cost. “I knew that one must not clap between movements of an orchestra, but didn’t know that in early opera, audiences would applaud loudly for their favourite characters,” said

Mukhopadhyay, one of the 70-odd Mumbaiites attending the lecture by Zane Dalal, resident conductor of NCPA’s Symphony Orchestra of India, at Crossword Kemps Corner.

“And I finally learnt that at operas, smart casuals and saris are the way to dress,” added the accent trainer from Vashi, who now feels prepared to watch Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, an opera to be staged in the city on September 28 and 30.

This is the first time that the NCPA has stepped out of its premises to conduct introductory sessions about a genre of classical music for the public.

“The idea was to show the audience things about the opera that excite me, and it was heartening to see them get excited too,” said Dalal, who gave the lecture to over 80 students from St Xavier’s College on Wednesday.

Dalal has also been at the forefront of the pre-concert talks that the NCPA introduced in June, to briefly educate audiences about the Western and Indian classical concert their were attending.

“The talks are meant to engage the audience in a meaningful way, and interest in them has grown exponentially in the city,” added Dalal, who is now keen on conducting more music appreciation classes for amateurs to acquaint themselves with the culture of classical music.

Though the start is small, audiences already seem to be ready for more. “Such lectures are wonderful, but centred only in south Mumbai. Hopefully it will spread to the suburbs soon,” said Juhu resident Shobhini Singh.