Mark Troop was in Goa recently as part of Goa University’s Visiting Research Professors’ Programme, the Anthony Gonsalves Chair for Western Music. He spoke in an interview to the Navhind Times about the lecture series and about Giving Voice Society’s opera production ‘Dido and Aeneas.’

This is the first session of your lecture series at the Goa University. How has it been?

It’s been great! The way they’ve set it up has been very good. The response has been quite encouraging, especially from the university students who took the one-credit course. And the University’s idea of setting up a music department is a very good one.

Tell us a little about the ‘Giving Voice to India’ project and Giving Voice Society.

One thing my wife Patricia Rozario and I noticed over the many years of coming to India to her family was that the whole area of vocal training needed much improvement.

We first began work in August 2009, to raise the standard of western classical singing, both art song and opera, in India. The project essentially implements a singing course, in line with the format of international singing academies, during which Patricia and I work with Indian singers on various skills such as vocal technique, musical style and interpretation, foreign language skills and score-reading skills.

We have taught around 30 courses so far, each usually five days long, and have worked with over 100 students in several Indian cities (Mumbai, Goa, Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad.

We have also trained local singers who demonstrate a sound understanding of the principles, to carry on our teaching work in between courses and in order to provide continuous learning opportunities to singers in India.

Giving Voice Society was formed in 2012 to provide a support structure for the project and to augment its impact. One of the key objectives of the Society is to create performance opportunities for Indians who have proved worthy of the stage. In July 2013, singers of Giving Voice performed Benjamin Britten’s operetta ‘The Little Sweep’ for a full house at the Con Brio Festival at the NCPA, Mumbai. This was a landmark performance because it was the first time an opera was performed with a cast comprising entirely of Indians.

And this year you take Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’ on tour?

Yes, this year the Society brings fully-staged performances of Henry Purcell’s opera ‘Dido & Aeneas’ to some of the most important cities for western classical music in India: Mumbai, Pune, Goa and Delhi, once again with an all-Indian cast. Not just that, but it is an all-Indian production as well. The conductor and director are Indian, and the lighting, design, and stage manager are Indian as well. Almost all the musicians are Indian too. This is a significant step for operatic history in India.

The opera is a delight. It is about an hour long, and in English. In fact it is the first great opera in the repertory in the English language.

The opera plot is based on an episode in Virgil’s timeless epic The Aeneid, the mythical story of a queen, a soldier and the illicit love that tore them apart.

The Goa performance of the fully-staged opera will be at the Kala Academy on 4 August 2014 at 7 pm.

(Free limited passes available at Furtados Music stores in Panjim and Margão)

(An edited version of this article appeared in the Navhind Times Goa India on 30 July 2014)

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