Aria Umezawa is an artist-innovator who is focused on changing the culture of opera and opera creation. She recently completed an Adler Fellowship with San Francisco Opera (SFO)– the first stage director to be awarded the fellowship in fifteen years. She was the first Canadian stage director to participate in the Merola Opera Program in 2016, where she directed the Grand Finale to critical acclaim. She is the Co-Founder of Amplified Opera, an organization that places equity-seeking artists at the centre of public discourse.
In 2018, Aria developed Safe to Run: Bystander Intervention Training for the Rehearsal Room with Opera McGill and the San Francisco Opera Center. She has run the workshop at opera companies across North America. She presented on the topic of Anti-Harassment Policies and Stage Intimacy Techniques at the OPERA America Conference in June 2019, and presented at the 2020 OPERA America Artistic Administrators Forum on Building a Healthier Company Culture for Artists. She was engaged as an artistic consultant on a new production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly co-produced by Opera in the Heights and Pacific Opera Projects. In 2018 she was a speaker on the Gender Equity in Opera panel at the inaugural Opera.ca Opera Changing Worlds Education Summit. Aria’s writing on the practice of whitewash casting in opera was published in The Globe and Mail in 2015.
Since 2019, Aria has been on the coaching staff at Opera McGill as their Opera Innovation Consultant, where she works with the Master’s students to produce their own opera projects. During her time at San Francisco Opera she worked with their SFO+ Initiative, which brought experts in Design Thinking to the organization to improve audience engagement. In 2018, she led a team in devising UX Activations to the War Memorial Opera House.
Aria is also the co-founder of the independent opera company, Opera 5, and served as its Artistic Director until 2017. Her work in bringing new audiences to opera prompted a feature on Flare.com entitled Screw the Status Quo: Meet the Millennial Who Made Opera Cool. Selected directing credits include: (La) voix humaine (Against the Grain Theatre), Christmas With SOL3 MIO (San Francisco Opera); Hamlet (West Edge Opera); and an immersive interpretation of Die Fledermaus (Opera 5).