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News |  08 Feb 2018 16:01 |  By RnMTeam

An opera is like a story, a play which is sung by an actor: Tharanga Goonetilleke

MUMBAI: A lady singing in high-pitch, or the glass panes breaking at an overpowering musical sound are the things that a commoner connects with on hearing the word “opera”. But, there is a lot more to this genre of music that has been around for decades. And, nobody would be better than an opera singer to explain this musical form. Thus, we at Radioandmusic connected with Tharanga Goonetilleke, an opera fame artiste who has played leading roles in operas under Lorin Maazel and George Manahan.

Mastering no art is easy, it has challenges and Goonetilleke had to walk this path. She explains, “An opera is like a story, a play which is sung by an actor. You don’t have characters that can be portrayed. This is the major challenge we face. You have to prove yourself more than everyone else in order to avoid getting over-looked. You have to convince the panel by looking like your character at the audition. I would like to call this a challenge as it’s a good thing to keep you on your toes. It makes me want to constantly improve. You can’t be in your own comfort.”

The singer further adds, “One of the challenges is that how do you carry the traditional ‘art’ from one generation to the other. But also, the good thing is that whenever we perform in few places we do notice that there is a tremendous interest among people about opera. If people are curious enough the audience is going to grow and it’s our job to take it to the people rather than catering to the same audience all the time.”

Challenging journeys can get the worst and the best in you, but some emotional support always keep you on the right track. “My parents have been my biggest motivation. They did not tell me to go and become an opera singer. No Sri Lankan would say this since opera is not performed in Sri Lanka the way it is in India. They do not have an opera house currently. Also, there is no scope of opera there. My parents were very particular about my academics and later they also realized that I was maintaining a good balance between my academics and opera singing. So, they helped me participate in competitions, choir practices.”

She also shares her major interests, “I am quite interested in art, music and science. I also do visual art projects, recently I did a presentation which related to women in science. I did ‘an opera portrait’ of women and later brought out music which bought their personalities out.”

Goonetilleke was one of the speakers at TEDxGateway 8th edition which took place on 4 February 2018 at Dome NSCI, Worli, Mumbai. On her collaboration with them she says, “This was my first.  They offered me this opportunity and my experience with them as been has been great.”

The singer-performer has worked with renowned directors Stephen Wadsworth, Robin Guarino, Fabrizio Melano and Jay Lesenger. She has over a dozen major operatic roles under her belt including Mimi (La boheme/Puccini), Pamina (Die Zauberflöte/ Mozart), Ginevra (Ariodante/Handel) and Blanche (The Dialogues of the Carmelites /Poulenc). She is also a performer of oratorio and of contemporary music. Her soprano solo renditions of Carmina Burana have been a particular favourite of most audiences.