Pretty Yende performing. Picture: Supplied
Pretty Yende performing. Picture: Supplied

WATCH: 5 South African opera singers taking the world by storm

By Luther de Lange Time of article published Mar 7, 2020

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South Africa is overflowing with talent. Singers, dancers, painters, and a whole range of other artists who let their creativity flow in every aspect of life. 

Some of South Africa’s homegrown opera talent has been showcasing their voices on a global scale and here are five of those voices leaving audiences in awe:

Njabulo Thabiso Madlala

From the township of Indanda, just north of Durban, Njabulo Thabiso Madlala was accepted to a his high school choir in Cape Town. Soon after, Madlala was allowed to perform in Wilton’s Music Hall in London where a woman said that he should go to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. 

Madlala was offered a full scholarship for his first year at the institution. Since then, Madlala has performed globally and wants to share the same opportunities with South Africans. His charity, Voices of Africa, brings representatives from prestigious opera schools to Cape Town to host training programmes with aspiring singers, some of which have even been offered employment by the English National Opera.

Pretty Yende:

Growing up in rural Piet Retief, Yende heard a snippet of “Flower Duet” by Lakme during a TV advertisement while watching with her family. The next day a teacher told her this astonishing sound was opera and she should ask the choir to teach her. 

Fast forward to 2019 and Yende was nominated for Best Female Lyric Singer by Forum Opéra and became the youngest South African to receive Italy’s Order of the Star award for promoting friendly relations with Italy and other countries. Yende has toured the world with her singing and is currently starring as the protagonist of "Massenet’s Manon" at the Opéra Bastille in Paris. 

Pumeza Matshikiza:

Born in Lady Frere, now known as Cacadu, Eastern Cape, Pumeza Matshikiza found opera at a young age and sang in church choirs to hone her skill. While enrolled as a student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Matshikiza worked with composer Kevin Volans who encouraged Matshikiza to apply for a young artists scholarship at the Royal College of Music in London. 

Matshikiza has been travelling around the world, performing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Dmitry Korchak’s Festival in Novosibirsk, Russia. On March 22nd Matshikiza returns home to perform at Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts before heading to Boston in the United States in May. 

Musa Ngqungwana:

Born in Pretoria, this bass-baritone is another UCT graduate on the list. Ngqungwana holds many worldwide performances under his belt working with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the Washington Concert Opera amongst many others. 

Ngqungwana currently lives in the United States but returned to South Africa to launch his memoir in 2018 and while he remains living in the United States, Ngqungwana uses his resources to help aspiring singers with scholarships. 

Levy Sekgapane:

Levy Sekgapane studied at UCT while participating in many South African opera productions simultaneously. Sekgapane started his career strong, placing first at the Monserrat Caballé singing competition and the International Belvedere Singing competition in 2015. 

In 2017 Sekgapane won the Operalia competition in Astana, Kazakhstan and has been making waves worldwide ever since. Sekgapane has performed in Berlin, Paris, and Copenhagen and in August 2019 released his first solo album.


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