CELIA LOBO, Dramatic Coloratura Soprano
Opera Singer / Concert Artist
Theatre Director / Voice Teacher
LA TRAVIATA 1962
“As a child I remember mum practicing day after day as I was growing up" remembers Deirdre Lobo-D’Cunha. She would come to Bombay one month prior to opening night. The annual trips and house full performances at the Tejpal Hall continued until the BMSO disbanded in 1970. Thereafter CELIA began her solo career mostly operatic recitals with her accompanist the fabulous Tehmie Gazdar.
CELIA’s training began with her first stage appearance at 16 years in Geisha. In 1956 upon graduating from Sophia College she moved to London at the age of 19 – a time when most parents wouldn’t allow their daughters to get out of the house.
Despite the early death of her father and limited financial resources, CELIA managed to go to London, and get a part-time course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where she studied with Sumner Austin. After five years of training there, she returned to India and married her longtime boyfriend, Trevor Lobo. Upon her return to Bombay, Derek Bond, the director of the BMSO’s shows got in touch with her. From then on, Bond would send recordings of the opera and score for the upcoming opera to her home in Delhi and later Shahjahanpur where she moved with her husband.
Much later in the 70s Celia once again went off to London for a refresher course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, but this time studied with Walther Gruner. It is Celia’s drive to learn as much as she can that always made her a success of whatever she did. She once told me “you never stop learning. Always keep an open mind.” remembers Deirdre Lobo-D’Cunha.
LOBO played the lead role in nearly every opera staged by the Bombay Madrigal Singers Organization (BMSO), including Geisha (1953); Lucia di Lammermoor Norma (1965), Rigoleto (1967); Tosca (1968); in later years, two One Act operas, Bastien und Bastienne by W.A. Mozart and La Serva Padrona by Pergolesi just to name a few. A little tit-bit about Rigoletto: After the first two performances there was a massive earthquake at Koyna as a result of which all major power consumption was shut down including air conditioning in theatres. The BMSO had to get special permission from the authorities to continue performances minus air conditioning but were compensated with cardboard fans.
"In recent years Mumbai has seen many operas performed by foreigners, but in 1962 Mumbai had its own local artist – CELIA LOBO playing the lead role of Violetta in La Traviata at the Tejpal Hall. LOBO’s charismatic stage presence and beautiful voice always stood out. Other sopranos may have great voices, but they sometimes don’t have the stage presence,” remembers Homai Bilpodiwalla, an honorary member of the NCPA.
Celia chatting backstage with Derek Bond (Director)
At the end of the performance
CELIA LOBO as she is known to many, was born to Edwin and Emma Baptista of Mumbai, India. Both parents were music lovers. She is the second of five children. She grew up in an extremely musical family, with her father Edwin being a very gifted baritone and pianist, holding a degree from the Trinity College of Music, London, and her aunt Muriel Ribeiro a fine soprano. Her other two aunts Ella Gonzalves played the violin, and Ida Fernandes the piano. Celia and her sisters were musical, there was no doubt. In later years, after her father had died and they were exposed to popular music (it was only classical music till then) there were many evenings when one of her sisters, usually Shirley, would start singing some popular song and the others - Iona Heredia, would pick up in turn, following the melody with harmony in four voices. The boys were too little. Some years later the three girls, dubbed “The Humming Birds”, were selected from Amateur Hour on Radio Ceylon to sing with Ken Mac and his Band at different venues in Bombay, including the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Eros Ballroom.
Celia Lobo and Tehmie Gazdar in an Operatic Recital
In the 1980s CELIA along with Leon D’Souza put together a musical called CASCADES which kick started her career as director. More plays followed including THEY’RE PLAYING OUR SONG, and BEST OF BROADWAY. Here is when she started her teaching career and trained many stars today such as Ella Castellino-Attai, Farid Curim, Shiamak Davar, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shweta Shetty, Sunita Rao, Francois Castellino, Darren Das, Sachin Tendulkar (speech), to name a few.