Mezzosoprano Adriana Bignami Lesca holds hands with a woman during an opera rehearsal of "Antony and Cleopatra" in Barcelona / Photo: Reuters

By Firmain Eric Mbadinga

Adriana Bignagni Lesca's vocal range can be as low and high as that of five-time Grammy Award winner Angélique Kidjo, who excels in Afropop, jazz and traditional music.

But unlike the Beninese diva, whom she counts among her role models, Adriana has chosen opera as her genre, and her voice is captivating many music lovers, especially in Europe.

Indeed, the name and voice of the Gabonese singer is increasingly associated with major classical music events, particularly opera performances.

An opera consists of singing precise notes set to classical music. Traditionally, opera lyricists tell dramatic or romantic stories that the artists sing theatrically. Adriana, who studied at the Conservatoire de Bordeaux in France, where she now lives, has mastered all these skills to perfection, in the opinion of her peers.

Adriana Bignagni Lesca performing on stage.

In opera, the most common voice types are soprano, mezzo-soprano, and contralto for women, and countertenor, tenor, baritone and bass for men. Adriana is both a mezzo-soprano and a contralto.

''My voice is mezzo-contralto. I'm a mezzo-soprano and a contralto. I have a medium female voice, but I also have the lowest female voice, which is often compared to a tenor."

"In other words, I can sing almost the same voice as a tenor, even though I'm a woman," explains the winner of the "Africa Lyric's Opéra'' prize in Paris in 2022 and the winner of the "Armel Opéra Competition'' in Budapest in 2016.

To master the various voice types and learn how to modulate her own voice, Adriana has undergone some of the most advanced training available.

As someone who initially never saw herself as anything more than a choral singer, she remembers how her artistic journey took an accidental trajectory that has put her increasingly at the center of the stage.

After enrolling at the Bordeaux Conservatoire at the age of 19, her voice was heard by an expert ear.

While performing a song by the artist Annie-Flore Batchiellilys in the conservatoire's piano and accompaniment department, she caught the attention of the school's director, who immediately asked her to join the singing and lyrical arts department, where she went on to learn all about opera music.

Adriana Bignagni Lesca initially never set out to be an opera singer/

Things soon followed from there. The singer took part in opera competitions and shows, where she continued to distinguish herself.

''This musical genre, I didn't choose it at the outset. I wanted to be an accompanist and children's choir conductor," Adriana confides, her eyes watering with emotion.

Strong in character, Adriana Bignagni Lesca says she has no time for complaining and only focuses on moving forward.

Similar to film and theatre, Adriana's performance and profile are determined by the casting directors. '

"We get together on stage depending on the cast. The cast is the casting that the artistic directors and managers of the opera houses, as well as our agents, put in place, corresponding to a given work according to the piece they would like to produce. Well, once all that has been concluded, often with the other colleagues, the atmosphere can be good and at times the atmosphere can also not be good. ''

Adriana Bignagni Lesca makes a living from her art.

Adriana Bignagni Lesca on stage.

Adriana points out that few African names are cited as references when talking about opera. South Africa's Pretty Yende, with her soprano voice, is one of the few who demonstrates through her talent that art has neither color nor religion.

To infuse her art with an African flavor, the Adriana has organized or participated in training workshops on several occasions, with the hope of dispelling clichés that are perpetuated by cultural conservatism.

One of her first roles was in Budapest, Hungary, and she is gradually weaving her web in France and wider Europe. Through all the projects she undertakes, her aim is to professionally train young people in music practice.

''As a Gabonese, I inevitably have projects for my country. Some of the projects proposed to the authorities at the time have so far never received a response, particularly between 2015 and 2020. When the new regime arrived, the CTRI, I did the same. I suppose that since the country isn't built in a day, it takes time, and I'm waiting," she adds.

The opera singer is currently facing two major challenges. One is to gain acceptance for the neutral and therefore non-discriminatory nature of art. The other challenge is to associate Afro rhythms with opera and reinforce the universality of this scenic and lyrical art form.

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TRT Afrika