“This will be the first step to endless possibilities,” says an elated Kishani Jayasinghe on the upcoming programme of the Colombo Opera Festival which will take place from November 7 – 10. The soprano who made it to the international stage in the world of opera, Kishani is using this platform to make classical music [...]


‘Sing something you love’

Kishani Jayasinghe gives tips on selection of songs for singers auditioning for the individual master classes that will be conducted as part of the Colombo Opera Festival

David Gowland

“This will be the first step to endless possibilities,” says an elated Kishani Jayasinghe on the upcoming programme of the Colombo Opera Festival which will take place from November 7 – 10. The soprano who made it to the international stage in the world of opera, Kishani is using this platform to make classical music accessible to music aficionados in Sri Lanka.

The Festival will begin with a Gala concert at the Nelum Pokuna on November 6 with internationally known opera singers Haoyin Xue (Chinese tenor), Monika-Evelin Liiv (Estonian mezzo-soprano), Krzysztof Szumansk (Polish baritone) and Kishani herself with Maestro David Gowland on piano.

From November 7 -10, young singers aged between 18 to 25 years (those slightly older or younger may also apply) will be given the chance  to have individual master classes with the Royal Opera House Artistic Director of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme (JYAP) David Gowland. Applicants will be judged “solely on talent” and prior training in music is not taken into consideration here, Kishani assures. Applications are currently open with the deadline being October 14. All applicants are required to send in their applications and a Whatsapp message of their voice clip to 0777315716.

The individual classes will lead up to a concert by the students on November 10, followed by a Q and A session with Gowland himself at the Russian Cultural Centre.

One important requirement of the audition process is to have at least one prepared classical piece which “needs not be in foreign language” Kishani shares. Kishani’s advice for those auditioning is simple. “Bring prepared pieces that you are most comfortable singing” she says adding “you always give your best performance if you are singing something you love.” Secondly “choose pieces that show off the quality of singing you want” and lastly “prepare three pieces where you know the music like the back of your hand.”

““Bring a piece you have lived with for some time so that you have the security of knowing the music really well,” she advises. Even if you don’t have any classical piece, or if you have never sung before if you have an amazing voice which you want to show him, feel free to audition,”  she says, adding “this is a quest to find some raw, serious talent.”

The master classes with David are part of the outreach initiative by the Royal Opera House JYAP to bring an operatic experience to countries that don’t have it. “They are very passionate to reach out and see a country’s natural talent and to see whether the people have an affinity to music,” Kishani shares adding “It need not be classical music. We’re just looking at the voice.” The three day master classes will be targeted to those who have an “aspiration to do something more with their singing that extends to it being something beyond a hobby.”

Kishani reminisces “I had so many opportunities and blessings in my life! I met some wonderful people on my journey who opened these doors for me. I want to do that for the kids here.”

By bringing down the international vocalists for the gala concert, Kishani further hopes to show the calibre of artists David has produced – the four vocalists all having personally trained with him at the Royal Opera House. The gala concert will showcase “vocal marvels from the Operatic, timelessly classic, Broadway and popular repertoire.”

Kishani Jayasinghe

As music director of Royal Opera House JYAP for the past 12 years, David has a wealth of experience in identifying the potential of someone’s natural affinity to singing,Kishani states. Over the years David has scouted out vocal talents in the UK, Sweden, Lithuania, Sicily, Spain, Turkey, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, South Africa, Tasmania, South Korea, China and Japan.

With countries like China, South Korea and Japan investing heavily in Opera, Kishani aspires to make Sri Lanka a hub for the vocal arts in terms of classical music as it is a largely untapped source. “We have not tapped into the intricacies of the voice in South Asia” Kishani shares musing that the reasons behind this are “probably just circumstantial”.

Kishani also extends a warm welcome to parents and well-wishers to sit in at the individual master classes if they wish to support the students.

Speaking to the Sunday Times via social media, David Gowland shares that what he is  looking for in general is that “special something which cannot be taught; Instinctive, intuitive, which engages with and touches or inspires an audience”.

Being the only Sri Lankan in the JYAP programme to date, Kishani shares “I always say the Sri Lankan voice is very unique. In my experience as a singer one of the things people always wanted to talk about was the colour of my voice in the international circuit” attributing this to “our genetic makeup giving us a very unique sound.”

The Colombo Opera Festival will be conducted in association with the Arts Council of Sri Lanka, the Colombo Municipal Council, the University of Visual and Performing Arts and the Chamber Music Society of Colombo with contributions by Fairway Holdings and East India Holdings. All activities of the festival other than the gala concert will be free of charge.

Hoping to widen the niche of classical musical appreciation beyond Colombo, Kishani hopes to extend the programme beyond Colombo depending on its success in the future.

“There will be endless possibilities to the opportunities for the exceptional voices David hears within the week and in the end we want to create an opportunity for people to see themselves as professional singers,”Kishani shares.

 For more updates check Kishani’s Facebook page @kishanijayasinghe(soprano). Advance ticket bookings for the gala concert at the Nelum Pokuna (November 6) can be made by contacting 0718867071. Tickets are priced at Rs. 3,500, Rs. 4,000, Rs. 5,000, Rs. 6,000 and Rs.  8,000.


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