The manner in which Africa’s premier opera company has thrived during a year that savaged the performing arts is in many ways a clue to Cape Town Opera’s ongoing success during its first 21 years of existence.
Robust, powerhouse, attention-grabbing, world-famous… South Africa has become known as a producer of voices that stir the soul, raise the roof, get audiences to their feet yelling “Bravi!”, “Brava!”, “Bravo!”.
These voices that garner such admiration on stages worldwide are apparently formed by some mysterious alchemy of South African oxygen and water and sun. Either that, or it’s in our DNA, some fire in our blood.
And out of this pool of raw, natural talent, a pleasing number of voices are finding international acclaim.
Singers like virtuoso soprano Golda Schultz who, after two years with Cape Town Opera (CTO), successfully auditioned for the prestigious Juilliard School in the US. She now enjoys instant name recognition in the classical music world and this year, headlined the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms. Watched by millions, the show was broadcast live from an empty Royal Albert Hall in September.
And then there’s world-renowned Pretty Yende, who went from rural Piet Retief to spotlight engagements at the Opéra Bastille in Paris; bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana, a UCT graduate now based in the US; and UCT-trained tenor Levy Sekgapane whose performances in numerous local opera productions spurred him on to win both the Monserrat Caballé singing competition and the International Belvedere Singing competition in 2015. He, too, is now the toast of the international opera scene.
And, of course, there’s the CTO’s award-winning chorus which annually woos and wows audiences around the world. Known for its versatility, its repertoire stretches across genres and traditions, from classic European opera to Zulu hymns, American spirituals, and jazz numbers.
‘We are known and we are sought after for our productions and our voices,’ says Susan Smith, Board Chairperson of the CTO, which is well-established as the continent’s premiere opera company.
‘Many magnificent voices across the world’s stages come from South Africa, and many of those have passed through the professional development opportunities CTO offers.’Susan Smith, Board Chairperson of the CTO
And while these voices belong to acclaimed individuals, those who know opera, recognise its demands as a collaborative art form. It is not its voices alone that make an arts company like CTO shine.
Continue reading Cape Town Opera: The results of a collaborative creative village