Imagine opera mixed with hip hop and traditional chants from India + Broadway showtunes. Add in contemporary ballet from The Source Dance Co. and Shiamak's Indo Jazz Dance Movement This is the musical theatre vision of Veera Devi Khare… and it is exciting!
Khare has created a culture-bending show that presents her love of singing many different style + the opera that she loves while recognizing the Indian origins that influenced Bizet's Carmen & Les Pecheurs de Perles + Lakme by Delibes, Gondinet & Gille. With a recent Masters Degree in Opera from the Hartt School of Music in Connecticut, she presented the World Premiere of “A Touch of Opera, A Touch of India at Capilano College Theatre, April 20 & 23.
With many costume changes between fine Indian costumes, and Opera gowns, Khare's show weaves between the familiar (West Side Story's “Somewhere” and “The Prayer” made famous by Celine Dion and Andrea Bochelli), the sophisticated (arias from Carmen, Lakme), the sacred (Hindu prayers + one of her own), and the exotic (Fire, Water, Earth & Air – a trippy hip hop tune + The Source Dance Co. & Shiamak's Indo Jazz Dance Movement.
During “Fire, Water, Earth & Air”, Veera appears on stage, as if she is a four-armed Shiva. The trance beat music fills the auditorium, as a low-voice rap speaks it's truth. Khare joins in the rap, and a dancer in traditional Indian costume steps out from behind her – and they join in dance moves, as Khare sings. Very contemporary. Very traditional. Very exciting.
Did I mention the dancers? Contemporary dancers peform to her musical interludes, and act as segues from scene to scene while Khare makes her costume changes. Everything flows seamlessly barring a few minor production glitches in the first day's performance, including a fire alarm just before the 2nd half. By the final night – production flowed smoothly. To close the first half, the dancers from the Shumaik Dance school launced into a bangra style disco hip hop piece that got the audience whooping and hollering. Sort of a 21st C version of disco belly dancing – very exotic to Western eyes and experience.
Khare save her best stuff for last. She presented Western opera within the context of recognizing their Indian inspiriations, Bizet's Pearl Fishers and Delibes's Lakme were both set in 19th C India. The duet from Lakme, “Sous le Dome Epais” is most familiar to people as the music used in the British Airways commercial. Carmen's Habanera is performed with castenets (rarely done on stage), acknowledging the Indian roots of the gypsies who travelled throughout Spain and Europe.
This is an ambitious work for somebody just starting her singing career. Khare is virtually unknown in Vancouver – but yet calls this city her home, as she splits time between Vancouver and New York.