Every so often MT poses 60 questions to a local or visiting artist in Toronto who has made our classical music community that much more interesting. They pick and choose. The minimum response is 20 answers.
After moving to Toronto in 2014, tenor Asitha Tennekoon has quickly established himself as an important figure in Toronto’s opera scene. His most recent breakout performance was in Tapestry Opera’s Rocking Horse Winner. Other credits include performances with Stratford Summer Music Festival, The Indian River Festival, MY Opera, and Bicycle Opera Project.
You can hear Tennekoon perform as Harry Benn in The Boatswain’s Mate by Toronto’s Opera Five running June 22-25.
What are three things about Toronto that make you want to live here?
The food, not feeling like an outsider even though I just moved here three years ago, patios!
What are three things that Toronto doesn’t have but should?
Tropical weather in that Nov-April stretch….
An ocean and a beach
Better public transport
Name the musical equivalent to junk food
Recently for me, that’s been Dancehall music, and regular club dance music. Just get me a filthy beat, and I’m good to go!
Default drink/cocktail of choice?
Red vino is always good company. I’ll have some Hendrick’s after a long week. Starting to experiment with some Scotch now…we’ll see where that goes!
Name your favourite concert hall/venue in Toronto
Koerner Hall so far. It’s a beautiful space, and the acoustics are so good! As one famous Toronto-based conductor said… “You can hear a fish fart in there!”
Name your favourite concert hall/venue anywhere
The Lionel Wendt Theatre back home in Sri Lanka. It’s a great hall in every way, and also holds a very special place in my heart. I’ve performed there since I was six years old and have so many fond memories, and formative experiences on that stage.
Your role models?
More than idolizing any individuals, I prefer to admire and emulate individual characteristics and personality traits.
Your favourite sound?
I grew up close to the ocean. Every night as I fell asleep I’d hear the waves roll in and crashing in the distance. That’s still one of my favourite sounds!
Your least favourite sound?
Your favourite smells?
Salty ocean air, fresh fruit, garlic, old books, coffee.
The dumbest thing that you’ve ever done to your hair?
Shaved it all off. No regrets though!
If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you?
The three books that you read that made an impact on you in your formative years?
The Kite Runner, Pride and Prejudice, A Light in the Attic
What is your biggest phobia?
The strangest talent that you possess?
Remembering obscure, insignificant details and easily forgetting obvious, important ones.
Shoe of choice?
The tropical island-man in me will always crave a pair of flip-flops.
The different career path that you could have gone on?
Your three favourite films?
Gladiator, The Pianist, The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Television show that you could tolerate re-runs of?
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks and Rec.
Your major character flaw?
The character flaw in others that you can’t abide?
Arrogance. The inability to talk about anything other than themselves and what they’re doing.
How do you know when you can trust someone?
Trust your instincts, and be mindful of how they talk about other people who aren’t present.
What are you the most proud of?
I managed to trick my nephews and niece into thinking I’m cool!
What are you the least proud of?
…not being as cool as my nephews and niece think I am…
What is the best thing about your work?
There’s an amazing thrill that comes with creating something together with a bunch of other people. I also love the different challenges and sense of fulfillment going from singing something like Bach to premiering a new opera, for example.
What is the worst thing about your work?
Being far away from my family and homeland.
The talent that you wish you possessed?
I really wish I could tap-dance!
What are you listening to as you answer these questions?
Regina Spektor’s album Begin To Hope
What musical instrument do you secretly long to play?
The cello, and maybe drums in a rock band!
What sport did you give up and why?
Cricket. Didn’t have time for that on top of tennis, music, debating, drama.
What is the game that you’re best at?
What is the one animal that scares you the most?
If you had a motto, what would it be?
It is what it is!
Scariest situation you’ve ever been in?
Getting pushed into the deep end of a swimming pool by someone who didn’t know I couldn’t swim.
Your favourite word?
‘mhm’ (when I say it)
Your least favourite word?
‘mhm’ (if someone else says it…such an annoying, non-committal response)
The thing that makes you the happiest?
Being around the people I like a lot, preferably with good snacks, libations, and chill music!
Name three pieces or composers that you never want to hear again
Lauridsen. Any pieces with repeated ninth chords just in different inversions….so…Lauridsen.
The strangest road you’ve ever travelled?
The first album that made you love music?
An album of Bach Organ Works. I played it late at night and didn’t realize the volume on the stereo system was on full. The first track was the Toccata & Fugue in D minor…I’ll never forget that experience…neither will the neighbours!
Three pieces, songs, or arias that you could listen to on repeat for an hour?
Schumann Piano Quintet in E flat, Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8, Batter My Heart from Dr Atomic by John Adams.
The first three things that you do every morning?
Hit snooze x3