'Opera is just like Bollywood, full of drama'
Media student Frazan Adil Kotwal lets us into the fascinating world of opera music, confessing that his dream is to be 'the first great Zoroastrian singer of the classical world'
It's an unusual choice in India to be an opera singer. What lead you in that direction?
Yes, it is indeed a very unusual choice, especially for a 19-year-old Bachelor of Mass Media student who is also a Parsi priest!
I have always been fascinated by opera as a child. And when I shifted to Mumbai I discovered that there is a small but growing crowd (of opera lovers) here.
I happened to meet Patricia Rozario (a world renowned opera singer) who heard me and encouraged me to sing in the opera at the NCPA (National Centre for Performing Arts) in Mumbai.
That was my first tryst with live opera. Before I gave my first performance, I had never seen a live opera and here I was singing in one.
As soon as I got on that stage I knew for sure that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life and after that I have been performing every three to four months with orchestras like the Bombay Chamber Orchestra.
I also had the undying support of my college Jai Hind and my BMM co-ordinator Dr Varalakshmi without which I wouldn't have been able to be a part of any of these productions.
When did you realise that you have a gift for music?
I always considered myself as a performing artist. Ever since I was a toddler I used to take part in all the plays and choirs.
Singing was what I connected to the most. I felt the happiest when I sang for others.
I started learning the piano and used to compose my own tunes. Soon I took up the violin and practised very hard.
It involved a lot of hard work and dedication.
How many musical instruments do you play? Is it difficult to switch from one to another?
Well, violin is my primary instrument. I also play the viola, cello, harmonica and a little bit of piano.
I don't find it difficult at all switching between instruments as all I need to do is focus and all the practice pays off.
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Image: Frazan Adil rehearses before a performance
Photographs: Courtesy Frazan Adil/Facebook
'When I hear Sheela Ki Jawani I don't cringe, I dance'
If you could be part of any international music-based project (orchestra, opera, musical, etc) which one would it be?
For opera I would love to be a part of a big scale production like Aida or Parsifal or Die Zauberflote.
The sheer magnitude of these productions always sends chills down my spine and just watching them on screen gives me the inspiration to work harder.
For someone untrained in opera music, what is the best way to enjoy an opera? Is it about the emotion and the voice or the story and the characters?
Almost all my friends and family members say that they don't enjoy opera because they don't understand the language and the music.
To everyone out there I'd say, it's not only about the language but you should be able to sit back, relax, enjoy and "feel" the music so that you can interpret it in your own way.
Only after you surrender yourself completely, will you be able to enjoy the whole experience.
Since you dabble in theatre, do you have aspirations to move to Bollywood?
Opera is just like Bollywood -- full of drama! Yes, when the right opportunities present itself I will definitely consider them. But as of now my focus is performing on stage, there's nothing quite like that feeling.
Speaking of Bollywood, what is your opinion on Bollywood music? Do you cringe when you go to a club and hear, 'Sheela ki jawani'?
Oh no, not at all! I appreciate all genres of music and try and appreciate them too.
When I hear Sheela Ki Jawani I don't cringe, I dance.
Image: Frazan Adil is a student of Jai Hind College in Mumbai
Photographs: Courtesy Farzan Adil/Facebook
'DDLJ and Kabhi Khushi...will make for great operas'
Frazan in five years will be...
Still studying and also will be performing side-by-side. If it's 10 years, then I'd be the first great Zoroastrian singer of the classical world.
A dream role you'd like play on stage...
Turridu from Cavalleria Rusticana and Beppe or Canio from Pagliacci, as those are the first operas I had sung in.
Your favourite musician, living or dead...
A contemporary story (film/book/play) that you think would make a great opera for India...
I think most Yash Raj and Karan Johar films like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham will make for great operas.
If you were a song, which one would you be?
Silent Noon by Ralph Vaughn Williams. In Hindi, Aao Meelon Chalein from Jab We Met.
Image: A film poster of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge