Japanese-Canadian hapa woman makes opera fun

Japanese-Canadian hapa woman makes opera fun

Global Asian Women: Stories for and about Asian women around the world

Elizabeth Noh

Her name means a solo piece in an opera, and it just so happens that Aria Umezawa is a trained opera singer.

The mixed Japanese-Canadian is also the co-founder and artistic director of Opera 5, a small production company in Toronto, Canada.

Fate or coincidence? Her parents had no idea when they named her 25 years ago.

“My parents joke that if they knew I would follow my namesake, they would have named me lawyer or doctor,” says Aria.

Her calling came at the age of 6, when she saw her first opera, Turandot by Puccini. “The music touched me.”

The experience lead her to study at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and later at McGill University in Montreal. She trained as an opera singer, but she found that she wasn’t cut out to be a performer and was more suited to be a director…

…Aria is bi-racial. Her mother is Caucasian from the province of Alberta in western Canada. Her father is Japanese who came to Canada as a teenager. Aria was born and raised in Toronto. She has two younger brothers.

Some people say Eurasian, but “hapa” is commonly used in North America. The term originates from Hawaii and means a person of mixed blood. We talk about her mixed background.

“Growing up, it never occurred to me that my family was different on any sort of substantial level. We ate foods that my friends didn’t eat, and I was enrolled in karate instead of ballet, but I figured every family had its quirks,” she says…

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