by Dr. Luis Dias
The meteoric trajectory of Mumbai-bred Goan Catholic Patricia Rozario from the suburbs of Santa Cruz to the stages of the world’s most prestigious opera houses and concert halls is an inspirational story for our youth. It proves that with the right training, and with a lot of hard work, the sky is truly the limit.
How it all began…and where it led to!
As a child, Rozario was deeply influenced by her father’s western classical record collection, especially those of Maria Callas and Victoria de los Angeles. She displayed her talent at a young age, and began winning prizes at local competitions.
Her parents allowed her to go to England to study music. Rozario studied with Walther Grüner and Jeffrey Talbot at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. While still a student there, she won a variety of scholarships as well as the prestigious Gold Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians and the Maggie Teyte Prize. Grüner convinced Patricia’s parents that she had true potential as a professional singer.
After postgraduate study at the National Opera Studio in London under Vera Rozsa, she undertook further studies in Münich under Hans Hotter and in Paris under Pierre Bernac.
Since then her career has soared, in opera, concert work, recording and broadcasting. One could devote several volumes to her redoubtable career biography; what follows is just a brief summary but by no means does her full justice.
Rozario’s unique voice and artistry has inspired several of the world’s leading composers to write for her, most notably Arvo Pärt and John Tavener, as well as Roxanna Panufnik, Howard Skempton, Howard Blake, Andrew Gant, Simon Holt, Param Vir, Naresh Sohal, David Maddox, and Christos Hatzis.
Sir John Tavener first heard her sing in 1991 when she auditioned for his opera Maria Egiziaca (Mary of Egypt) and won the leading role; since then Rozario has effectively been his muse. He recognized in her voice "a unique spiritual and primordial quality that I have never been able to find in another singer." She has performed every Tavener soprano part since then. He has now written over thirty works for her, making their collaboration unique in the contemporary field. Tavener has remarked that “when Rozario sings, she becomes the music”, high praise indeed from Britain’s most prominent living composer. Rozario’s performance of his haunting composition “Song for Athene” at the funeral of Princess Diana catapulted Tavener to international prominence.
Rozario has sung with the leading conductors of our time: Georg Solti, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Vladimir Jurowski, Jiří Bělohlávek, John Elliot Gardiner, Trevor Pinnock and Andrew Davis.
On the operatic stage in Great Britain, Patricia Rozario has appeared with English National Opera, Opera North, Wexford, Glyndebourne Festival Opera and at the Garsington Festival in operas by Beethoven, Gluck, Haydn, Massenet, Monteverdi, Mozart and Purcell, and at the Aldeburgh and Almeida Festivals in operas by Casken and Tavener. On the operatic stage abroad, she has appeared in Aix-en-Provence, Brussels, Frankfurt, Ghent, Innsbruck, Lyons, Lille, Bremen, Antwerp, Amsterdam and Stuttgart in operas by Cimarosa, Gluck, Handel and Mozart. With the late Sir Georg Solti, Patricia Rozario toured the major European capital cities in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.
On the concert platform, Patricia Rozario is an outstanding figure. In Great Britain, she has appeared in recital and concert at the Aldeburgh, Bath, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Harrogate and City of London Festivals. She has appeared in recital at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Wigmore Hall, St John’s Smith Square, and has appeared many times at the BBC Promenade Concerts. Abroad, she has made numerous concert appearances in, amongst other cities, Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin, Halle, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Cologne, Leipzig, Madrid, New York, Paris, Riga, Rouen, Strasbourg, Vienna, Winterthur and Zürich.
Her extensive discography includes Songs of the Auvergne with Sir John Pritchard, Haydn’s Stabat Mater under Trevor Pinnock, Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia with John Hickox, Casken’s Golem (a Gramophone award-winner), recordings with Graham Johnson for the Hyperion Schubert Series, and several major works of John Tavener, including Mary of Egypt, the Akhmatova Songs with Steven Isserlis, Eternity’s Sunrise (nominated for the Classical Brit Awards 2000), and Schuon Lieder. She has recently recorded Pärt’s L’abbé Agathon for ECM records and a CD of Strauss songs with pianist Charles Owen. Her recordings also include major works by Canteloube, Respighi, Satie, and Vaughan Williams.
Patricia Rozario was awarded the OBE in the New Year’s Honours, 2001 and the Asian Women’s Award for Achievement in the Arts, 2002. She is professor of singing at the Royal College of Music, London.
Her most recent appearance at the City of London Festival in June 2010 was billed “Goa meets Brazil”, and featured her together with Brazilian cellist António Meneses. The programme included Goan and Brazilian folksong arrangements. The Goan contribution was a suite arrangement by Mark Troop incorporating Doriachea Lharari, Suria Noketranche and Nachpinnichem Git.
Giving Back to India
Giving Voice to India is an ongoing long-term project initiated by Rozario, in a bid to give back to her country of origin. She elaborates: “China, Japan, Korea, countries that also have a music tradition of their own, have in the last 15-20 years produced some world-class singers. I feel that we Indians are equally gifted, if not more, and I don’t see why we can’t do that ourselves”.
Giving Voice to India seeks to improve the singing of western classical music in India, and to increase the enjoyment and appreciation of that music. It appeals to all who wish to sing, from choir members to potential soloists, and to all those who wish to enjoy singing well. The ambitious project seeks to run four times per year at three-month intervals. It is given by Rozario and her husband, pianist, writer, composer and broadcaster, Mark Troop. The course consists of a carefully constructed programme of vocal exercises, recording student progress, language development and style and interpretation.
Giving Voice to India started with a four-concert series in August 2009, where students were selected through master classes. The teaching course started fully in December 09 – January 2010 in Goa and Mumbai respectively, and has completed its second outing in April 2010 (also Goa & Mumbai). The Kala Academy has contributed immensely to the project through the generous use of their facilities.
Each day of the workshop has the same format: Individual technical lessons in vocal technique given by Patricia Rozario (20 minutes per pupil); provided on a forty minute, two pupils at a time basis, recorded for each student.
Group work, covering style, interpretation and language is dealt with by vocal coach Mark Troop; each pupil singing prepares repertory individually. The afternoon session is taken by Patricia and Mark together – linking the technical with the stylistic. At the end of the course there is usually an informal concert for the students and one or two invited guests.
And what have been the impressions thus far? Troop comments:
“Technically: the vocal exercises freed up all the voices, improving accuracy and projection of sound. Ranges of the voices were increased, and consistency and strength improved.
Musically: the pupils were coached intensively in Italian, German and French and also in English, insofar as it is a difficult language in which to sing. There were big improvements in Italian and German, greater difficulties being associated with French. This in itself led to vocal improvements – when the language is correct, the voice is freer and projects better.
As regards Interpretation: Students were introduced to ‘the projection of the musical idea’ as integral to song performance. The vocal and language work is prior and necessary for this vital musical concept, and by and large they coped well, with the results plain to see in the final concert.
The level of improvement was very great, and we isolated one singer (in Mumbai) in particular who has definite potential to take her classical singing very much further.”
This singer is Faye Monteiro, 23, who has attended two workshops and now has progressed exponentially to the level where further study in the music conservatories of Britain or Germany is the next logical step. On 9 July she sang arias and songs she studied at the workshop, at a concert in Mumbai’s NCPA (National Centre for the Performing Arts).
Sisters Chelsea (16) and Chloé de Souza (15) also enthusiastically endorse the project. Both are primarily pianists; Chelsea recently won the John Gomes Memorial All India Piano Competition, and has a music scholarship to Kansas, and Chloé was a finalist at the competition as well. Both found the vocal exercises very useful, in widening their range and for voice projection. In Rozario they found an experienced teacher, and learnt a lot from Troop in terms of interpretation. The knowledge they gained at the workshops helped them at the piano as well.
Tara, 23, travels up from Coimbatore to Mumbai, just to attend the workshops, such is the level of commitment, and the vote of confidence she has in the project. Navroze Godrej, Farah Ghadialy and Nitya Thomas, also at the Mumbai workshop, found the structure and content of the courses a great boon to development of their voices. “It is a great opportunity for someone of Patricia’s stature to come down and teach here”, adds Thomas.
And what about Goa?
Sonia Shirsat, fado queen of Goa, said “It was indeed an eye opener to first timers like me.” She found the workshop really helpful in “tapping the head voice”, as she put it. Fadistas essentially use mainly the “chest voice”. She missed the last session due to her schedule, and has signed up for the next course.
Gisela Pereira, 17, from Utorda, adds: “I found the vocal exercises extremely helpful in improving my singing. I learnt a lot about the voice repertoire and recommend the courses very highly.”
Reggie D’Souza of Candolim, and Ayesha Barreto of Dona Paula found immense benefit from the workshops, even though their forte lies in more popular repertoire. Both of them sing in a pop band. “The voice lessons have certainly made a huge difference to my singing”, says Ayesha.
Never before in India’s music history, has a western classical performer of such high calibre, taken on such a long-term personal ongoing commitment to raise the bar, the standard of music performance on such a large scale. We are witness to history in the making, and should consider ourselves privileged to partake of it. Reason enough, if ever we needed one, to burst forth into song.
(This article appeared in the Herald Mirror, Goa India, on 18 July 2010)