International classical collaborations underway

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The 2nd phase of London-based South African-born baritone Njabulo Madlala’s sixth ground-breaking Voices of South Africa Opera Singing Competition initiative has begun. This follows a sold-out fund-raising concert, which was held in Cape Town’s Baxter Concert Hall on Saturday 20 July 2019.

Masterclasses are running this week until 27 July at the Hugo Lambrechts Music Centre in Parow, with the cream of South Africa’s rising new operatic stars-in-the-making undergoing intensive coaching and training from a panel of international experts, who have been assembled from the United Kingdom, Germany and the USA, to pass their skills onto 25 young singers who successfully auditioned to participate in the event from across South Africa.

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Kobie van Rensburg
Kobie van Rensburg

The singers have been working with: conductor Kamal Khan, who has travelled from the USA, and donated his services of coaching and accompanying the singers at the competition this coming weekend; Dominic Wheeler, Head of Opera Department at Guildhall School of Music and Drama supported by the Guildhall; opera director and singer; Kobie van Rensburg, in his capacity as director of the Umculo Incubator; and opera director, Anthony Almeida, of the Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House.

The semifinal of the competition with all the 25 singers takes place at Erin Hall in Rondebosch on Saturday 27 July and starts at 13:00.

Madlala elaborates: “Part of the competition is done in partnership with the Umculo Incubator who have donated the services of the international operatic tenor and director Kobie van Rensburg who has travelled from Germany and has been leading the masterclasses all week. Umculo is sponsoring the Voices of South Africa Umculo Baroque Prize. Another important partner to this year’s singing competition is the Songmakers Guild who have made available to the competition Albie van Schalkwyk who has work along Kobie on coaching German lieder. Song makers Guild are sponsoring the Lieder prize and singer will compete for this on Saturday the 27th at 2pm at the Erin Hall.”

The final will be held at the Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium on Sunday 28 July, starts at 15:00. This is a free event but a R20 – R50 donation will be most welcome at the door from all attendees and will go to supporting the singers in the development and future workshops.

Says Madlala: “For this year’s masterclasses, the top 25 singers were selected out of hundreds of hopefuls who applied. They are Thando Zwane, Katleho Maloisane, Mandisinde Mbuyazwe, Molly Dzangare, Solly Motaung, Menzi Mngoma, Litha Jali, Lunga Hallam, Stephen Schalkwyk, Sinesipho Funo, Ané Sophia Pretorius, Segomotso Shupinyaneng, Yolisa ngwexana, Leoui Rendsburg, Lekgetho Jefferson, Nkululeko Masuku, Msimelelo Mbali, Jason Atherton, Palesa Malieloa, Nombuso Ndlandla, Sakhiwe Mkosana, Lesego Mkhwanazi, Olu Yakhe, Thandiswa Mpongwana, and Aubrey Mlindi.”

“Forming the judging panel are the following luminaries who have all made their mark on South Africa’s professional opera scene: Aviva Pelham, Pauline Malefane, Minette Pierce, Sipho Fubesi, Lize Thomas and Jeremy Silver, conductor and Head of Opera Studies at UCT.”

Anthony Almeida
Anthony Almeida

“We have engaged with other opera companies and institutions of further education abroad to come on board and come to South Africa to help our talented and much deserving singers,” says Madlala. “This week climaxes with the actual singing competition, which carries prize money donated by long-standing supporters and lovers of opera, the Durban-based Dr. Sicelo Nkwanyana and Dr. Sifiso Makhanya, Choral Prizes donated by iFele and Diemersfontein Wines. We all know the circumstances from which some of the young singers have come, so while winning a monetary prize is not the focus, it certainly helps, and they are required to show they will use the funds towards their development.”

“The Opera Voices of South Africa International Singing is excremental grateful to Gail Behr, owner of the Dorp Hotel in Bo Kaap who has hosted completely for free all the international guest teachers, singers who took part at the concert and some of the young artists singing this weekend. We could not have done this without this help.”

Dominic Wheeler
Dominic Wheeler

Such goodwill is a measure of the recognition accorded to Njabulo Madlala for his dedicated perseverance in soliciting expertise and promoting training for hundreds of promising young singers from communities across South Africa. In this light, his Voices of South Africa Opera Singing Competition initiative has attained iconic status among cultural development programmes, both in South Africa and abroad.

The results of the Competition will be announced on Monday. Meanwhile, for updates regarding Sunday’s competition per se, visit Voices of South Africa International Singing Competition Face Book page where the competition will be broadcast live on Saturday and Sunday.

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