The 6th Unisa International Voice Competition has ended on a historical note with French vocalist Cynthia Abraham announced as the first winner of the Jazz Voice Category and Cecilia Rangwanasha who was the first South African classical singer to win a Unisa International Voice Competition.
The event literally ended on a high note with three sopranos competing in the final round on Saturday 3 February in the ZK Matthews Great Hall. The Johannesburg Festival Orchestra conducted by Maestro Vito Clemente from Italy accompanied them.
The final round in the Jazz Category took place on Friday 2 February.
Each winner takes home R200 000.
In the Jazz Category the second prize were awarded to local vocalist Tshepo Tshabalala and the third prize to the British vocalist Ellie Bignall. They won R130 000 and R80 000.
South African sopranos Thembinkosi Magagula and Palesa Malieloa won second and third prize in the Classical Category.
Special prizes were awarded to America vocalist Tahira Clayton and soprano Frances du Plessis for the best semi-finalists who did not go through to the final round.
Two special prizes were also awarded to Cynthia, a Parisian from French/Gaudeloupe descent. She visited South Africa as an 18-year old, performing at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival as part of a French big band.
The special prize for the best performance of a South African composition in the Classical Category was awarded to Thembinkosi Magagula.
The best second round performance in the Classical Category was awarded to Cecilia Rangwanasha. She is a student of Virginia Davis and a studio member of Cape Town Opera.
The event was particularly successful from a South African perspective. The panel of international adjudicators, all with impressive biographies, voted four South Africans into the final round. Only Cynthia Abraham and Ellie Bignall were not from South Africa. This was once again affirmation of the tremendous talent and dedication of South African vocalists.
Famous South African singers who have been finalists in Unisa International Voice Competitions include Raoul Beukes, Johan Botha, Kobie van Rensburg and André Howard.
Celebrated singer Sibongile Khumalo was the only South African on the panel of adjudicators.
The classical competitors received excellent support from South African pianists Albie van Schalkwyk, Elna van der Merwe, Susan Steenkamp-Swanepoel and Laetitia Orlandi. Jazz pianists John Fresk, Roland Moses and Bokani Dyer were the accompanists in the Jazz Category.