Nozuko Teto grew up in Bizana in the Eastern Cape not knowing there was such a genre as opera – today it is taking the young soprano around the world.
She is earning a reputation for her talent, has sung a host of key roles and has worked with such famous South African directors as Angelo Gobbato, Matthew Wild and Christine Crouse.
Her hard work and dedication have led to her travelling overseas on scholarships and to perform.
She has sung with such respected institutions as the International Opernwerkstatt in Switzerland, Cape Town Opera Studio, the Puccini Festival Orchestra in Italy, the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.
She has also studied under Mirella Freni, at the famous Italian soprano’s opera academy.
Tonight caught up with Teto as she wrapped up a tour in Italy (which began in October) and prepares to make her way home for Handel’s Messiah, which is to be performed at The Playhouse in Durban later this month.
Teto credits God and all her music teachers – including those at high school – for helping her succeed as a singer.
“Before they introduced opera into school choir competitions, we had no idea what it was. We didn’t hear it on radio, we were exposed only to choral music. When they introduced it to the choir competitions we started knowing this other genre of music. Today it’s different. A young high school kid would say something different because they are more exposed to it.
“For me, I’d say the music chose me, because I didn’t know it existed. God put people in my life who pushed me until I realised there was something special in it and in me. I was nurtured at school and at varsity and things started falling into place. Thank God for that.”
It wasn’t until Grade 11, when she had to decide what she would study at university, that she began realising the potential of music.
“My choir conductor, Mr Vakele Dumela, and Dr K Stofile, from Bizana, were the ones who pushed me. They took me to auditions and so on.
“By Grade 11, I realised that if I were able to do this my whole life, I would be happy. What made it difficult was that there was no one who had done this before.
“I had no clue what I was doing until… I started doing my undergrad (at the University of KZN). My voice teacher, Colleen Philp, nurtured me. During my postgrad at the University of Cape Town, those who helped me to dream further and prepared me for an audition abroad – which was a success – were Professor Kamal Khan and Professor Virginia Davids.”
Teto says the key thing is that how one starts does not determine how one finishes.
“Where you are born and raised does not determine who you become in life… For me every day is a new day to discover and become grateful mostly of who God is… Even when things seem impossible, I rely on the fact that when everything changes, He (God) remains the same.”
Being afforded the opportunity to perform in Handel’s Messiah is a double whammy for Teto because it is bringing her home and is a piece she says praises God.
“I love God and it’s an honour to be able to sing this during Easter, at home. I look forward to it because KZN is where I did my undergrad. Durban the first city I went to after Bizana. After so long it’s an honour to be able to sing for colleagues and friends, and just South Africans, my people.”
A press release says the Messiah – dealing with the Nativity, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus – is regarded as the greatest masterpiece to have been composed in England. It has been sung across the world every year since its first performance 272 years ago.
Durban’s Playhouse Company hosts a performance of Handel’s Messiah on Easter Sunday, April 20, at the Opera Theatre. It will feature Teto, Khumbuzile Dhlamini, Aubrey Lodewyk, Violina Anguelov and Stéfan Louw. The Playhouse Company Chorale performs under Gerhard Geist, with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra under Naum Rousine.
• Tickets for the April 20 performance are R85-R120 at Computicket: 031 369 9456.