Mumbai: Siddhant Kapoor, grandson of legendary singer Mahendra Kapoor and son of singer-actor Ruhan Kapoor, brought global glory to Indian mythology by composing the Sanskrit-Hindi opera ‘Birth of Ganesha’ in London. Composing a fascinating story of how Ganesha got the elephant’s head was no easy task. Siddhant did rehearsals for all the artists in a foreign language, Hindi and Sanskrit with a team of amazing singers from all over the world. Even though singers used phonetics to understand the pronunciation of words, the theory had to work hard to ensure that it sounded true even to a native Hindi or Sanskrit speaker. “It was important to make sure that we performed the opera from the heart. For that, I had to decide that the singers understand the sentiments behind the words and bring them into their songs, so that the story comes to the audience even if they don’t know the language and that’s exactly what happened”.
‘Birth of Ganesh’ had its world premiere at Peacock Hall, Greenwich, London. The opera was well received not only by the audience, but also by the leading classical composers Dr. Deirdre Gribbin and Dr. Stephen Montagio. While Gribbin described how the theory work is ‘thoroughly deeply refined and detailed’, it is also worth mentioning that in addition to Siddhant Kapoor, the lead team included a Norwegian violinist, a Korean chaliste, an Italian pianist and Japan, Greece. , singers from Spain and the United Kingdom were also involved.
Anastasios Michaelis, a leading baritone singer from Greece who played Lord Shiva, says, “It was an unforgettable experience and a milestone in my artistic journey so far. The work, whose themes were drawn from the didactic stories of the Indian Pantheon, blended celestial western polyphony with the spiritual musical language of the Holy Land of India. It combined an atmosphere of extravagance with the musical aesthetic and strong structure that is typical of classical plays. To be honest, being a part of this project was more than an honor, it was a blessing.” Speaking about Siddhant he says, “Sid has already achieved a lot in the world of music and we always expect great things from him. Despite his undeniable musical talent and his family heritage, he is humble and gentle. But apart from a music guru and dear friend, I’ve always considered him to be a younger brother—yes, I’m a little older!”
Siddhant went to the characterization workshop, one of the most important aspects of preparing for the opera, where he explained the characters in detail to the cast as well as discussed what they thought of the main characters of the opera. This gave the opera a very unique personality. He experimented with graphic scores in different ways by using different Indian ragas to the musicians and singers. It was a unique experiment by combining Indian ragas and graphic scores. “For this I introduced them to various Indian udava ragas (pentatonic scales), from which they had to choose a scale, the notes of which they would use to interpret the graphic score. Keep Opera in mind when interpreting graphic notation. That way, even though they were all interpreting the same graphic score, they all had different presentations,” said Siddhant Kapoor.
A picture speaks more than a thousand words. Siddhant also created a storyboard of the story so that the visuals to compose were clear and at the same time the actors would be able to understand. “The words were written in Hindi to maintain the authenticity of the story. I spoke to my father, Ruhaan Kapoor, who writes songs in Hindi, and requested him to write the libretto for the opera. I also worked on the main characters and put the most relevant information about them into a document so that it could be shared with the singers long before they were familiar with the characterization. I also shared the story, storyboards and characterizations with the entire team by emailing them to inform them of more details of the project and to begin their research on the topic and characters. ,
Interestingly, the costumes and props were also shipped from India to London to maintain the authenticity of the characters. Siddhant admits, “I have always been interested in mythological stories and the story of Ganesha has been my favourite.” Mahendra Kapoor actually started celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi with pomp at his home since 1990, the year his grandson Siddhant was born. This is perhaps another reason why Siddhant Kapoor feels a strong association with Lord Ganesha, and whose celebration is celebrated every year with great fanfare at the Kapoor Niwas. “I am inspired by the way ‘The Birth of Ganesha’ was well received by the global audience. I am thinking of a series to take Indian mythology to the world audience with my music. I look forward to crossing boundaries and touching lives and hearts. The positivity and strength of character of these stories are waiting to be told,” concluded Siddhant Kapoor.