Patricia Rozario: Mission to train Indian talent

August 29, 2011

August 2009, The Asian Age
Panaji, Aug 28: For a soprano and opera singer who has scaled
stratospheric heights, performed on virtually all the better known
stages in Europe, the United Kingdom and around the world, there’s an
endearing down to earth generosity in Patricia Rozario.

Though probably awake half the night to catch a 4.30 am flight from
Mumbai to Goa, with a couple of hours to nap on arrival here, the
Mumbai born British soprano was all warm indulgence and attention as
she listened to thirty children take turns singing at a specially
arranged audition that morning. The songs ranged from a five year old
singing a lullaby to a teenager fumbling through Abba’s Chiquitita
—not quite the material for the over 16 year old talent hunt the
audition was meant to be, one susects. But going by the soprano’s
encouraging applause, none of the young singers would have guessed
they were anything less than spectacular.

“This is really a fact finding mission” says Rozario of her four city
India tour, where she performed concerts and held auditions in Delhi,
Pune, and Mumbai, before concluding here in Goa. ” There’s a lot of
talent here. I’m really here to find talent and then train them over a
period of time, in the study of music and in building technique. The
concerts I did were more to demonstrate the level which one has to
aspire to.”

That level for Patricia has taken her to the top of her field in
Britain. Her recordings of both ancient and avant garde music are
reputed to sell sometimes in “pop-music proportions”. Her voice has
been inspiration for several modern composers, including Simon Holt,
Arvo Part, and Sir John Taverner who has written over 30 works for
her. Rozario’s concert and opera repertoire include a good many of
the baroque masterpieces and contemporary compositions — her
contributions earning her the order of the British Empire in 2001.

Still the learning never ceases — new languages to learn and sing
operas in. She’s planning to tackle Russian and Czech next, she lets
on.

She’d left India at 20 to join the Guildhall school of music and drama
in London, followed by post graudate studies at a National Opera
Sudio. Though slated to return to Mumbai after her studies, Patricia
won the school’s gold medal and stayed on to hone her skills on her
professor’s insistence and belief in her talent. “Making a career as a
musician is probably harder that any business. You need backing and
luck, besides talent. It has’t been easy but certainly very exciting”.

After a rich, varied career, the time seemed right to engage with
India on a professional basis, not counting off course the regular
personal visits.”I was very happy growing up here. I knew I had to
come back”, says she.

Her India connection never waned, performing often in saris to
underscore her identity. She’s adapted Indian folk songs for a 2008
City of London festival. This year she’d doing a fusion programme
with Ashwini Bhide. “I tried learning Indian classical music as a
teenager, but was told I had come too late. You have to start at 4
years and grow up in that tradition to be able to be a master and
improvise. so it was lost to me. But I did do a six month training to
pick up elements to sing a fusion composition a composer who loved
Indian music had written”. The two vocal traditions are developed
differently. “In western music you project your voice, you do not use
an amplifier, whereas Indian classical vocal music is pure beautiful
sound”.

What propelled the current engagement with India, started with young
Indian soprano Joanne D’Mello, whom she mentored, trained and helped
make it to London’s Royal College of Music a couple of years back.
While Joanne’s distinction this year speaks of her own abilities,
Patricia realised the immense potential that could be trawled from
India, though other Asian students were way ahead here.

” India has a great love of singing. Bollywood has contributed
immensely to this, people sing in the streets. Like India, China has
its own traditional music, but still encourages people to learn
western classical. We need not lose our own culture to adopt another.
I feel responsibility to develop this talent” .

For starts Patricia would like to work with music teachers here, and
through them with chosen students. If the project can attract
funding, she plans to return 3-4 times a year for the training
programmes. “The talent is there, it has to be built up. It would take
2-3 years to bring it to a particular level”. There’s promised support
from the principal of the Royal School of Music, to extend
scholarships as has been done in China and Korea.

Her own meteoric rise came from a small annual parent-organised
talent contest in Santacruz, Mumbai. “My mother taught us to sing.
Western music was part of our Goan home tradition. I had no formal
training, before I went to London”. In fact Rozario warns against
formal voice training for those below 15-16 years, aside from gentle
singing practice.

The soprano and her pianist husband Mark Troop are treading carefully.
“We’d like to work with everybody, in harmony, see what we all can do
together.” says Troop. While Mumbai has few voice teachers, singers in
Delhi find themselves frustrated at being denied performance avenues,
as organisers import troupes from abroad. Patricia is hoping to
contribute to changing that, she says — raising levels and hoping
to convince organisers to source local Indian singers itself.(ends)

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