Celia Lobo Academy of Voice (CLAV) was formed by Deirdre Lobo to assist performers achieve well-oiled fluidity in any genre of music – a wide range from classical to pop, jazz, Broadway and Bollywood – Celia of course excelled as an opera singer in the late 60s’and early ’70s , having been trained at the Guildhall School of Music, London. The Royal Opera House at Mumbai was chandelier-blazing on December 4, 2019. There was family, there were friends, old students and performing students who owe their art to Celia and some to her daughter Deirdre who is also a director, voice coach, performer and trainer in California, USA. Termed ‘A Musical Extravaganza’ it had a variety not experienced in classical circles in some time.
Deirdre spearheaded a tribute to this opera diva who performed every major soprano role in erstwhile Bombay. On her return from London, Celia was the toast of the opera scene at a time when sponsorship was unheard of and artists performed gratis. Well before Indians could afford music training abroad, especially “opera” seen as superfluous by corporate houses, The Bombay Madrigal Singers’ Organization (BMSO) staged Operas of no mean quality. Bombay audiences feasted on Lucia di Lammermoor, La Traviata, Norma, Rigoletto and of course, Tosca! In fact today, several decades later, there is no such comparable initiative in Mumbai despite there being a body of well-trained soloists and choirs and sponsorships easier to attain.
The day’s tribute was to the octogenarian by her students and those of her daughter. On stage were Suneeta Rao, Shweta Shetty, Joseph Gomes, Pia Sutaria, Reina Kapur, Chevon D’Souza Lobo, Anusha Goda, Elizabeth Dias and Chelsea Das. Most of the western songsters were accompanied by the talented Nadine Crasto at the piano. Rajoshi Vidyarthi, Dhawal Chandawadkar, and Dnyaneshwari Katkar sang in Bengali and Hindi. Dhawal Chandawadkar also sang a fusion duet with the star Deirdre. Besamé Mucho was sung in Spanish whilst Chandawadkar gave alaps and sargams in an unexpected blend which was refreshing and musically appealing.
Deirdre opened the concert with the carol Mary’s Boy Child, which she shared was the ‘song’ that got her back to singing after a spell of silence for a few years when she was between the ages of 10-14 years. She still is unsure what drove her silent and what brought her back to training. For this occasion she chose popular, well known arias – He shall feed his flock (Messiah), O mio babbino caro (Gianni Schicchi), E Susanna non vien… Dove sono (Le Nozze di Figaro), and the off-beat Besamé Mucho. There were What a Wonderful World, I Could have Danced all Night, O Sole Mio all of which completed the light music scene.
Celia was greeted by one and all in her elegant dark blue and cream outfit. She was very touched by the grand gesture and thanked her daughter profusely for putting up this show, collecting the performers and of course choosing the programme. In her short message from stage she was articulate and expansive as she always held the expanse of the stage in her hay days. Her second daughter Carolyn and son Ashley were unable to attend as they had commitments abroad. The audience missed a message from either of them.
At the end of the show, backstage the young performing artists of the evening retreated to give Celia centre stage. It looks like curtains to a career but not to the memories of those scintillating performances, on which you could bet your last rupee!
All images © Royal Opera House, Mumbai