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Indira Mahajan

Desi soprano




If Indian-Americans can make it in jazz, can opera be far behind? For Indira Mahajan, daughter of a Punjabi father (Bhushan Kumar Mahajan) from Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh and an African-American mother (Barbara Mahajan), countless viewings of Bollywood films (" Indian movies were like musicals ...and that's what drew me, " she says) were an early introduction to the drama and pathos that is the hallmark of opera. A 1988 graduate of Oberlin, the first American institution of higher learning to regularly admit female and black students, and known for its conservatory of music, Mahajan toyed with becoming a voice major before going into African-American studies.

But the call of opera was overpowering and she enrolled at New School's Mannes College of Music in New York and the Academia Musicale Ottorino Respighi in Italy for voice training. She also went to Lincoln Center's Julliard in New York, one of the most prestigious art conservatories in the world. Her big break came when she bagged the role of Susanna in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro and Musetta in Puccini's La Boheme, two of the most-celebrated operas. The role of Clara in the New York Philharmonic's concert performance of Porgy and Bess with Bobby McFerrin at the helm followed. Fittingly, she also performed in Porgy and Bess at the Kennedy Center some months back;she is the recipient of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' 2008 Marian Anderson grant.

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