“History will be re-told tonight”, says Bathiya and Santush as they make plans to re-create ‘Yanni at the Acropolis’, right here in Colombo at the backdrop of the magical architecture of the Royal College building. The vibe is kicking in and the momentum is building, the stage is set and ‘Floreat’ is ready to kick off and take Sri Lankan music fans into a realm they’ve never experienced before – Opera music in the open in Colombo. Tonight, Sri Lanka will witness, probably the biggest challenge undertaken by this pop duo.
The sun glimmers across the set as the Royal College building beams in the afterglow, depicting a historical venue for a historical concert. Bathiya and Santush themselves scramble around the set fine tuning their presentation as we take a look at what’s in store for the audience tonight.
Clad In tuxedos with tousled hair, the duo go around doing their last minute performance practices. “Tonight is going to be a big night in our musical career,” says Bathiya and Santush, “The nerves are taking over because we know we have to deliver a performance of a lifetime”. They say that trying not to be nervous proves futile, as they are going up on stage with international artistes of the caliber of opera nightingale, Olga Sosnovskaya. “This concert is not an ordinary concert that BNS would give the audience, this is a challenge in itself”.
As Bathiya and Santush run around the set, technicalities will not be their prime concern, the performance will be their one and only motive. “This is the first time that Opera music will be brought to the public of Sri Lanka in this manner, and we have got to make it right”. “Being in the company of world class artistes would only mean that our performances have to be a notch above the usual”, they add.
Olga Sosnovskaya, is a Merited Artiste of the Russian Federation.
The Russian Cultural Centre had been the liaison between this meeting. Laureate of the 1-st Republican contest “Creative personality of the year”, President of the International Cultural Foundation “Classics and Modernity”, soloist of the State Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Komi Republic, Sosnovskaya has been acclaimed for pronouncing her dramatically rich and smooth voice with the strong stage presence and power she emits.
Sosnovskaya’s presence will reverberate the majestic halls of the College compound and mark the birth of something truly magical.
The lighting crew arrive at the scene as Santush hits a high note in a revered Opera classic, “Se Vu Vallare”. It’s Bathiya and Santush alright, but it’s not how we see them ordinarily, they’ve taken completely different roles in order to fit into the shoes of Opera singers. “Actually we started off our musical training at Mary Anne David’s with Broadway, Jazz and Opera, so we have roots in this genre of music”, says Bathiya and Santush. “We are trying to recreate those days on a much grander scale, a scale that is probably beyond imagination”.
“We have sung to audiences all over Sri Lanka, maybe it be in Jaffna or Galle, Colombo or Ampara, but this is something out of the ordinary – Opera music has long been confined to the walls of the Lionel Wendt, but we want to bring it out into the open”, they add, sparing us a little bit of time while discussing how the lights are to work tonight, with the tech guys. Santush says that ‘Yanni at the Acropolis’ had lighting that was out of this world, and tonight Sri Lanka will see those effects.
Meanwhile Dushyanth and Randhir enter the complex with blazers slung over their shoulders. Randhir is to perform one of the more recent hits by Bruno Mars and intends to deliver a solid performance while Dushyanth is ready to rock the stage with Queen’s all-time great, We Will Rock You. Dushyanth wastes no time in into his practice schedule, perfecting the act that he will perform in a few hours. The setting is slowly peaking towards the anticipated vibes as more and more artistes arrive to carry out last minute practices, giving us previews of what’s in store tonight.
Sri Lankan soprano Kishani Jayasinghe was a member of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House from 2006 to 2008. Since then she has sung Sifare Mitridate with the Classical Opera Company. In August 2010 Kishani Jayasinghe won the Grand Prix and Prix du Public at the 22ème Concours International de Chant in Marmande, France. A musician that has taken the world into her palm, stands right in front of us as she too displays a breathtaking preview of an Operatic Masterclass.
“Kishani Jayasinghe is probably the epitome of modern Opera which we can relate to”, says Bathiya and Santush. “We will be singing alongside her, as well as Olga, and this adds to the pressure but we are confident to pull this off, and pull this off great”.
To keep up to the Sri Lankan essence Centigradz will be performing three songs that encompass local culture. They will be playing to a live orchestra, and this will also be one of the first times that a popular band breaks away from recorded tracks and will be backed by a live orchestra.
“Opera is our objective, Opera is the mountain that we aim to scale, but the fans will not miss out on the evergreen hits”, says Bathiya and Santush. “The best of the best of our hits will be delivered tonight”. They mention that a BNS concert is not complete without the hits that made an identity for them, and thus will fuse their all time hits into the proceedings.
Tonight’s line up will start off with a BNS classic “Wasanthaye”. “This rendition will be symbolic of our connection with contemporary and classic music”, they add. “This is the kind of music we used to do for a good 6 to 7 years of our musical career before exploring other facets of the industry, and we wanted to reminisce those days”.
The music direction will be by Mahesh Denipitiya, and from the little sneak previews that the orchestra is playing for us at the moment we have no doubt that they will deliver the goods. Mahesh Denipitiya is an acclaimed pianist and a music director and has long been an integral part of the duo’s musical concerts. This time around, the full orchestra will present itself to the audience, creating a truly contemporary atmosphere.
Soundarie David will be taking the piano into her hands at ‘Floreat’ and needs no introduction. She is also the founder and Music Director of Sri Lanka’s premiere female ensemble, ‘Soul Sounds’, the first choir in Sri Lanka, to perform and win awards internationally over the last four years, with acclaimed performances in India, Australia, China, Kuwait, Austria, France, and recently the USA and Malaysia, thus placing Sri Lanka on the map of International Choral Music. “When Soundarie takes the piano into her hands, the music she creates is nothing short of magical”, adds the duo, “It is a great motivation for us to have her at the concert”.
The other international artiste that will take stage is Reenie Mansata, from across the palk straits. A truly international artist, Reenie spends her Summer on the road in the UK touring the well known “Mela” circuit performing to big crowds all over England upto Wales. Her songs have been making waves on UK’s Asian radio stations for some time now and she has been topping the charts. Reenie aspired to make a mark for herself on the global music platform. She is an artiste who believes in sticking to her ethnic roots in her style of music and performance, hoping to represent the Eastern part of the world. She wishes to satisfy and leave a lasting positive mark on all her listeners. “Reenie’s energy will be omnipresent on stage”, Bathiya and Santush reiterates.
The duo take a turn at practicing the intro from yet another classic, “On the street”, from the movie ‘My Fair Lady’. Sounds pitched in right, vocals perfect, and the next song gets a turn. They practice an Italian operatic next and our ears cannot believe what they just encountered. Bathiya and Santush simply came out of their pop outlook and sank into the shoes of true operatic singers as they nailed the high notes - Their voices reverberating through the halls of Royal College. A few more hours seems like a long wait as we anticipate hearing the full song tonight.
Taking a short break from proceedings Santush tells us why Royal College was selected as the backdrop . “Royal College is a historic landmark in Colombo, and it’s grandeur speaks for itself, likewise this will be a historic concert in Colombo as we plan on joining hands with the musical forces to re-create history and what better setting than that of a majestic landmark building, right here in Colombo”. Using the College as a backdrop, the concert will span from Rajeekiya Mawatha to Reid Avenue. “The building encompasses the architectural essence which is necessary to a remake of Yanni at the Acropolis. The right ingredients are here, and all we need to do is to strike the perfect equilibrium and present a concert that will be a once in a lifetime experience”
The lights are all set, and the sound checks are nearing their close, only to mark the very near birth of a historic concert at a historic venue and it’s on tonight.