The Opera Opu Jaja  – Remembering Adam Fiberesima: Matters Arising

On July 8, 2019, we published the article, The Opera Opu Jaja – Remembering Adam Fiberesima. It was read by many music lovers, broadcasters and others across the globe and it generated positive comments on the contributions of Dr. Adam Dagogo Fiberesima to Nigerian music.

ONE OF THE SCENES

One of such readers is Scotland-based Hugh Grant who had a long-time relationship with the maestro and even featured in the Opera Opu Jaja when it was showcased in Nigeria in the 70s. https://epa.com.ng/?s=opu+jaja.

Hugh Grant was in Lagos from mid-1971 to mid-1973 and he thinks the performances were in 1972. He recalls that he was working for the UK chemical company, ICI, helping to install some simple computing facilities and training staff to use those facilities for invoicing and keeping of financial records. ICI also had a paint factory out at Ikeja where they made Dulux paint.

Hear Hugh Grant:

“I know we performed in both Lagos and in Port Harcourt. I think there were two performances in Lagos and one in Port Harcourt. My memory is that Adam invited President Yakubu Gowon to attend the second performance in Lagos but he was unable to attend and it was Brigadier Adekunle who attended in his place. I remember the cast being introduced to Brigadier Adekunle afterwards and some of us were invited back to his residence afterwards. I don’t remember the full cast I’m afraid. I know that the part of Queen Victoria was played by Liz Engels, an American (of British descent and therefore very happy to be playing that British regal role!) Liz’s husband Gary worked for one of the oil companies. And I played the part of the Lord High Admiral.” He continues: “I was the Lord High Admiral – though being slim at the time (I was younger then!) and with spectacles on I do not look very much like a High Admiral!”

He continues: “I had the great pleasure of singing the part of the Lord High Admiral in 1972/1973 when assigned to Nigeria from UK for 18 months.
It was a delight to work with Adam and colleagues on this. A lovely person and a great work woven around the story of Opu Jaja. I have an LP of the opera sung by another group after I returned to the UK. But the photos on the record cover are from the first performance. I’m on the left of the lower photograph. Thanks so much for this article and the comments!”

Hugh has promised to record some excerpts from the Decca record on his phone and send those to me, while also hoping to pass the record to me at some point if we can work out a way for that to happen. He now lives in Scotland.

There is no doubt that after many years, Hugh Grant must have put much effort to get the information and several photos on Adam Fiberesima and Opu Jaja to us, hence our promised to also develop his experience into a blog article for circulation among interested Nigerians and others who love Fiberesima’s work.

Years after his performance in the Opera, Hugh said he had just listened to the recording again, after a very long time. “The music is impressive!’ he says.

He explained that photos on the cover are of the first cast, “but the recording has different people playing the lead roles. It’s interesting that it is only the conductor’s name that is on the cover, it does not say who the soloists are. I will see if I can make an audio copy of one or two samples from the record and send those to you. I hope you and Adam’s old colleagues will enjoy the attached photos”.

Indeed I am sure Adam’s old colleagues in Radio Nigeria/Voice of Nigeria, now of the Broadcasters Guild of Nigeria, BGN, will enjoy seeing the photos. Same too for followers of opera, music and dance as rendered by the Prof. himself.

There is no doubt that Hugh Grant and his co-cast and colleagues were very fond of Adam and that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves while playing the various roles in the Opera as they performed it in Lagos and Port Harcourt. “I was very fond of Adam and a younger Nigerian colleague of his on the production of Opu Jaja whose name escapes me”, said Hugh.

Of course time and age has taken their toll but not on the life-long impression Adam Fiberesima had on Hugh and many of us.

To recap:

Dr. Adam Dagogo Fiberesima, was one of the greatest Nigerian composers of all time. He was also one of those old Radio Nigeria people who raised the profile of the station and kept Nigerian music flourishing in the special idiom thought to belong to ‘yonder land’.

ADAM IN ACTION

He served as Head of Music of Voice of Nigeria, the External Service of Radio Nigeria in Lagos where he took music production and presentation to a different level. He later served with the Institute of Foundation Studies of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology in Port Harcourt.

Adam Fiberesima was famous worldwide for the Opera Opu Jaja, a three-act opera, based on the exploits and supremacy of King Jaja, although he had other works including the operatta Edi Ke Marina, Fantasia Origin, and musicals Buluwayo, Music for Brass Band, symphonies, Concert Overtures for orchestra and three ballads. On the whole, he is credited with writing four Symphonies, two Concert Overtures, three Operas, many works for piano and voice, two Operattas, Choral Music and several works for Brass Band and Wood Wind.

 

IMAGE CREDIT: books.openedition.org, africlassical, Decca, Hugh Grant

Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.

 

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