Levy Sekgapane headlines the Duet Gala Concert on Tuesday, October 24, at the Artscape Opera.

South African tenor Levy Sekgapane will join forces with a host of rising stars for the Duet Gala Concert that will be held at the Artscape Opera House on Tuesday.

The concert, presented by Cape Town Opera and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, is in support of the fundraising efforts of The Duet Endowment Trust.  

South African tenor Sekgapane has numerous accolades under his belt and recently won first prize in Placido Domingo’s prestigious Operalia 2017 competition.

Since winning the prestigious Belvedere Singing Competition in 2015, Sekgapane has rapidly become one of the world’s most sought-after young Rossini tenors, triumphing in high-flying bravura roles in major opera houses including Munich, Copenhagen and Rome.

Two other Belvedere winning South African singers, soprano Noluvuyiso Mpofu and baritone Mandla Mndebele, will star alongside Sekgapane, supported by an impressive roster of local singers and the Cape Town Opera Chorus.

Mpofu who hails from Port Elizabeth, is also rapidly garnering a number of impressive honours.

At the age of 26, the UCT trained soprano has already combined forces to sing with Sekgapane in The Barber of Seville, and among others, has performed in Rigoletto, Carmen, and La Traviata.

In 2015 she came third place in the Operalia competition; last year when the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, the “world cup” of opera, came to Cape Town she was placed second and also won the audience prize.

Meeting her in between rehearsals at the Artscape Opera last week, she said she was bitten by the opera bug at the age of 13 when she entered an eistedfodd.

“I listened to Don Giovanni and I was smitten. I was amazed by the music and the language and even though I didn’t know exactly what they were singing, the words spoke to me through the emotions expressed on stage,” she said.

So, as she related, she joined the local choir in PE and a blossoming singing career was born. When she was 14 she borrowed the DVD of La Traviata.

“It made a stamp on my growing love for opera. It was very compelling. One minute it was happy and the other it was sad,” she said.

From school she was accepted, after auditions, to study for a music diploma at UCT and was trained by Patrick Tikolo who was her voice coach.

“He took me under his wing and taught me how to read and understand music and also how to connect to music. In addition I was privileged to have master classes with among others, Angelo Gobbato, and learnt that underneath the singing technique, there’s the interpretation of how to build a character," she said.

“We were given the foundation but for me when I am learning a role I take everything I have studied and and make the character mine; make it unique.”

She has already travelled extensively for performances and competitions; performing in Porgy and Bess in Madrid, the Operalia in Covent Gardens and in August was the only South African to perform in the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, Italy; the birthpace of the composer where she performed the role of Madama Cortese in Il Viaggio a Reims.

She was praised by operaclick.com for “a soft and extensive voice that safely addresses the agility that role requires. Her interpretation was rightly among the most applauded".

After two years as a studio member, Mpofu left Cape Town Opera this year to launch her freelance career in March.

But she’s quick to admit she still has a lot to learn and looks forward, in the future, to perfecting her technique.

“I want to do what’s best for my career. Opera like any performance art is one where you are forever improving.”

At the concert, the programme for the Duet Gala concert draws inspiration from two of Sekgapane’s most admired roles, Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville and Prince Ramiro in La Cenerentola. It will feature a sparkling programme of arias, duets and ensembles from operas by Mozart, Rossini, Massenet and Richard Strauss.

Also joining the stage is baritone Mandla Mndebele who recently took third prize at the International Hans Gabor Singing Competition 2017 and local favourite, Violina Anguelov, considered the quintessential Carmen.

Cape Town Opera’s associate music director Tim Murray will conduct the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) in this highlight of Cape Town Opera’s 2017 season.

Duet, the CPO and Cape Town Opera joint endowment trust, was established by Wendy Ackerman in August 2014 for the advancement and preservation of both companies.

The purpose of Duet is to build a fund to ensure that there is sufficient income to provide on-going injections of money to both organisations.

* The concert takes place at 7.30pm on Tuesday, October 24, at the Artscape Opera. Bookings through Computicket and all proceeds go towards the Endowment Trust.

Cape Times