Rising local opera star on her way to Berlin
Cape Town - She has suffered many setbacks but that has not stopped Tina Mene from giving up on her dreams.
Mene, from Khayelitsha, was offered a scholarship at the Berlin Opera Academy in their summer programme from June to August.
Mene got the opportunity, after being spotted by a member of the academy, in a production she took part in, Gianni Schicchi, at the Artscape last year.
Some of the things Mene will be doing in Berlin include taking German lessons, performing in two productions, Hansel and Gretel and Gianni Schicchi, and auditioning to be cast in one of the opera houses in Germany.
She said: “I am grateful for the opportunity. I’m hoping to make more contacts and at the end of it all to get a job in one of the theatres in Berlin. Being part of the Berlin Opera Academy would change my life in a big way. Things are really difficult right now and I am not working. When I was young I listened to Fine Music Radio and fell in love with the way the artists were singing. I then decided that I want to be an opera singer.”
Mene's journey in the industry began in 1997, when she received voice lessons from former music teacher, Wendy Fine, before joining the Cape Town Opera’s (CTO) Choral Training Programme. A few years later, Mene enrolled herself at the South African College of Music at UCT, however, she could not finish her performer’’s diploma in opera because she fell pregnant. In 2004, she joined CTO Young Artist Programme (Yap) and was part of productions such as The Magic Flute but two years later she joined The Black Tie Ensemble.
“In 2011, I left Black Tie Ensemble due to financial difficulties the company was facing. I went back to Cape Town Opera Vocal Ensemble and went on to perform internationally. I have done roles such as Serena in Porgy and Bess and Mandela's mother in Mandela Trilogy. Some of my operatic tours incude Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Dubai and Hong Kong,” said Mene, who admires South Africa operatic soprano, Pretty Yende.
In 2017, Yende won the Best Recording Solo Recital Award for her album A Journey at the International Opera Awards. “She is one of our own. Knowing I have a voice inside me which touches others keeps me motivated,” she added.
Her friend, Faith Zungu, said: “I first met Tina in 2003, when I arrived at UCT. We both studied opera, under the direction of professor Angelo Gobbato. Tina was my senior as she came earlier than me. She was one of the great grand sopranos I have ever heard in my entire life, which made me love her voice so dearly. Tina is very kind and a hard-working person.”
Her vocal coach, Lize Thomas said Mene has always had a formidable voice, but her tenure with CTO has given her the opportunity to learn extensive repertoire as a chorus member and also to sing a number of solo roles.
“She has not been permanently employed since 2017 and has suffered a number of personal setbacks and tragedies. However, she has remained focused on the goal to go to Europe in order to further her career, where opportunities are far more abundant and her voice type can be accommodated in repertoire frequently performed,” she said.
Mene’s scholarship covers tuition fees and accommodation. However, she still needs funds for the programme. If you would like to help her call: 078 429 8974 or email [email protected]