Despite the biting economic situation in the country, Abuja Metropolitan Music Society (AMEMUSO) and its choir kept fate with classical opera lovers as they successfully hosted the 2016 annual Operabuja last weekend. Considering the financial implications of hosting the event annually, there was apprehension that the founder and artistic director of the society, the wife of former German Ambassador to Nigeria, Mrs. Maria Cecilia Toledo, might not be able to prepare the group for this year’s concert.
But it held. As usual, the choir and the soloists did not fail the audience. The children’s arm of the society (AMEMUSITO), was first to perform. As if aware of the prevailing socio-economic situation in the country, their musical renditions provided the much-needed hope as they reassured all that Nigeria remains a country to be proud of.
For the adult choir, this year’s performance was centered on an opera with mundane themes of love, hate and betrayal. The famous opera, ‘The Magic Flute’ from W. A Mozart was re-enacted. It is a fairy tale woven around a prince who falls in love with a princess through her portrait. Unfortunately, the evil mother of the princess lied that the daughter is held captive so as to prevent the union between the prince and the princess.
In spite of her antics, however, the two lovers eventually get to be together and live happily ever after, thus fulfilling the message of this year’s opera – that love conquers every challenge. The choir and the soloists presented a very tight performance. They were able to blend classical opera with English and pidgin in an unusually intercultural performance that spanned over two hours. The effort of the singers was complemented by some great Nigerian soloists and instrumentalist from Lagos, Russia and Slovenia as well as the German-born music conductor, Michael Vollhard, who added colour to the show with his scintillating performance.
At the end of the show, even Toledo testified to the fact that Nigeria has got incredible talents. She said: “Musicality, Nigeria is one of the most talented countries I’ve ever got to know.”
She, however, warned that it would be terrible for the country not to develop the talent of its young ones in music and arts generally, adding, “If you don’t take some time to develop the talents of the young ones, it will be too late. Instead, I believe that taking entertainment and arts up to the level of your great talent will bring your country to a fantastic new and international platform.”
Toledo said preparations have begun towards the next edition of Operabuja, which would double as the 10th anniversary of the AMEMUSO Choir and the music society. But she said her joy could only be full when the AMEMUSO Performing Arts Centre (APAC) and a music school for children in Abuja are completed. AMEMUSO’s long-term objective has been to establish the first music conservatory and theatre in Abuja. Toledo believed strongly that a long, lasting structure would create the framework for the professional training of Nigerian musicians. Although a plot of land has been allocated to AMEMUSO by the Federal Capital Territory Authority, it has been a daunting challenge mobilizing funds for the structure.
She then called on Nigerian government, multi-nationals as well as spirited music lovers to assist in ensuring that the project saw the light of day.
Relating the difficulty in putting up this year’s performance, Toledo said: “Actually, we were skeptical whether to stop or to go ahead. But we did not want give up. I love your country, Nigeria, very much. When I faced this year’s challenges and the short time I had, I started to think on doing something smaller than ‘The magic flute’.
“I felt we could not do much to prepare everything in one week but my team advised that we give it a trial. It was pure commitment and zeal. Today, I feel so full of joy. I cannot believe we achieved it and with such a musical high level. But I don’t feel relaxed yet. I am thinking of what to do towards the 10 years anniversary next year.
“After all these years of love and commitment, I feel part of your country. That is the reason I allow myself to appeal to everyone who understands how important it is for a country to promote cultural life to support us. All I ask is that God grant me the light to see the project completed, at least, for the benefit of younger generations of Nigerians.”