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The Pianist and the Soprano

Monday mornings at Siri Fort Auditorium are usually dull and boring. There is little activity,the hall is usually vacant and the atmosphere is sleep-inducing.

Written by Somya Lakhani |
August 24, 2011 2:40:13 am

Two Sri Lankan musicians,on an India tour,revisit their musical journeys

Monday mornings at Siri Fort Auditorium are usually dull and boring. There is little activity,the hall is usually vacant and the atmosphere is sleep-inducing. This time,however,it was different. Even from the main foyer,one could hear the sweet melody of the piano and the travelling,trilling voice of a soprano. Only to be interrupted by the pianist’s request for more yellow light on the stage. It was just a rehearsal – the auditorium was empty,yet full of musical notes.

The duo are,celebrated Sri Lankan pianist,Rohan De Silva,and soprano Tharanga Goonetilleke,rehearsing for their performance later in the evening. Tonight,they will enthrall audiences in Kolkata,followed by a concert in Bengaluru on August 26. “This is my first performance in India although I’ve been here before — my husband’s from India,” says Goonetilleke,whose operatic highlights include Puccini,Mozart,Handel and Gluck.

She is also the first Sri Lankan woman who was accepted by the prestigious Julliard School in New York. “As a child,I always knew I could sing. My musical journey is too long and complex and I can’t talk so much before my performance,” she says,as she watches De Silva practice.

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While she comes across as a calm personality,De Silva loses patience often. He is picky and particular — more light,less light,no pictures when sweaty. He is quick and crisp,almost blunt at times. But while playing the piano,he is somebody else — his fingers work like feather on the keys,and there’s a serenity in his music. “I performed in Chennai in 1981. But that was then. This time,I didn’t think the auditorium here would be this big and nice. Things’ve changed,” he says. De Silva is currently a faculty member at The Julliard School and has collaborated with revered violinists such as Itzhak Perlman,Cho-Liang Lin and Joshua Bell.

Probe them about their views on Indian musicians and a smile spreads on their faces. “We would love to collaborate with Indian musicians — each composer is intriguing and we have no favourites,” they say.

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