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Summer sopranos

Recordings of Swan Lake with Rudolf Nureyev and other great ballets can be watched in the Capital, thanks to Sunit Tandon

Starting from 2007, the Capital is treated every summer to a month-long festival screening recordings of the best ballet and opera performances. An annual fixture for the past 12 years, Summer Sonata was curated and conceived by the late Rajendra Prasad Jain, an ardent promoter and devotee of western classical music.

Dedicating it to his memory, this edition of Summer Sonata is being curated by Sunit Tandon to keep Jain’s dream project alive. Tandon, director of India Habitat Centre and president of the Delhi Music Society, had known Jain for the past 30 years, and when approached by IIC to continue with the festival, he readily agreed.

The program is put together in June every year when live performances of ballet and opera are pretty rare. A festival of opera, ballet and concert films, this edition too maintains the same mix.

“He was such a marvellous person who did so much to promote classical music in Delhi. In this edition I have tried to include music and works that he would have truly appreciated,” says Tandon.

Curated from his own collection, the festival opened with Swan Lake, starring one of the most famous classical dance partnerships of all time who also happened to be Jain’s favourite dancers — Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. Tandon specially chose this DVD from his collection to start the festival. “I checked the last few editions and he hadn’t programmed it so I felt that I must show it as he would have loved to see this production.”

As part of the musical concerts, the ongoing festival will be screening A Master at Work – Carlos Kleiber conducting Beethoven, Mozart and the Brahms. Carlos Kleiber was perhaps the most highly regarded conductor of the late 20th century but has left the musical world with a frustratingly small number of recordings. Hence this video recording of a concert given in 1996 is all the more to be treasured, capturing his minimal but poetic gestures, his utter command of the score and his hypnotic hold over the orchestra.

Following Jain’s tradition of including a choral work, Tandon has lined up Johannes Brahms – A German Requiem for the screening. A wonderful composition, Tandon believes it is also very apt as Jain was a professor of German. “Brahms work is not a traditional religious requiem, it’s more of a consolation to those who survive after they have lost a loved one. The context is very appropriate and is in a way a requiem to Jain.”

To end on a lighter note, the festival closes with Johann Strauss’ best-loved operetta – Die Fledermaus. Featuring hummable music, Tandon programmed this opera keeping in mind Jain’s great sense of humour.

The ongoing festival is being screened at India International Centre till June 24.