New roles: Janaka Welihinda of MYOpera

New roles: Janaka Welihinda of MYOpera

Jenna Simeonov

Canadian baritone Janaka Welihinda has taken the stage with the Toronto-based MYOpera as Uberto in La serva padrona (2013), and as Claudio in Béatrice et Bénédict (2015). This fall the company moves into its seventh season (and they’re throwing a party to celebrate!), and Welihinda takes on a new behind-the-scenes role, as Operations Director.

We spoke to him about his new gig with MYOpera, and his first-hand experience with how the company fosters and supports the careers of emerging artists.

MYOpera is dedicated to fostering emerging artists - as a young artist yourself, how do you feel that the company achieves this goal?

Coming out of university can be hardest and poorest time in their career for most people. It definitely was for me. Being in this industry is often an uphill climb. Between debt repayment and companies charging fees just to audition, trying to make that climb felt Sisyphean. All of a sudden, I found myself having to decide between auditioning for people and paying my bills.

When I found out that MYOpera doesn’t charge fees, auditioning was a no-brainer. And then they hired me to sing Uberto in La serva padrona. It was my first role in Toronto when I didn’t know anyone. Not only did this help me validate myself artistically and help my CV, I gained more experience performing in a fully staged and costumed opera and was remunerated for my time. Most importantly, I met so many people in the industry and have stayed connected with them through MYOpera’s alumni connection.

Janaka Welihinda with Kate Applin in MYOpera’s production of La serva padrona, 2013.

What do you look forward to most in your new role with MYOpera?

A few years ago was offered a restaurant management position. I’ve never been a stranger to trying new things so I decided to go for it. I was astonished that I actually enjoyed it. I learned so much from that role, most of which was that I love working with people. This is what led me to approach MYOpera to begin my foray into Arts Administration.

I’m very passionate about mentoring and coaching young people; helping them grow and trying to get them to reach their full potential. I feel like it’s a way to pay forward all the time my mentors have generously invested in me. I’m really looking forward to watching and supporting the artists this year throughout the process. From the auditions, to their first sing through, to their final performances and beyond, I’ll feel honoured to share each step of their journey.

What does MYOpera offer that is unique among Canadian companies?

MYOpera’s goal is to develop emerging artists as they embark on their careers. This doesn’t end after the season finishes. Whereas with other companies, you hear from them whenever you’re engaged with them; MYOpera stays in touch with their alumni. They aim to support and encourage their alumni through every step they take. Whether it’s organizing alumni events or promoting alumni activity in the monthly newsletter, MYOpera really cares about how their alumni are developing.

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