Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Operalia, one of the world’s most prestigious opera competitions, has taken center stage in South Africa’s second-largest city. This year, among approximately 800 singers, four out of five South Africans who participated have qualified as semi-finalists, a remarkable achievement.

Inside a studio at the Cape Town Opera House, Nombulelo Yende, a 32-year-old opera singer, rehearsed with a passionate rendition of Mozart and Wagner. Her powerful vibrato filled the air as she wore a floral dress, her hand gracefully swaying to the melody. Nombulelo described her love for opera as “liberating” and shared her enthusiasm for portraying different characters and evoking a wide range of emotions.

For Nombulelo Yende, a soprano and the younger sister of Pretty Yende, who won First Prize, Zarzuela, and Audience Prizes in 2011, participating in Operalia is akin to a “great audition” that can broaden her horizons.

The annual Operalia competition is taking place from October 30 to November 5 in South Africa’s second-largest city, featuring 34 contestants selected from the initial pool of 800 singers.

Sipokazi Moltino, one of the five South Africans shortlisted this year, is a 31-year-old mezzo-soprano originally from Gqeberha, now based in New York. She initially had no exposure to opera but found her calling after learning a Mozart aria. Opera’s unique storytelling and the creation of art through music captured her heart, and she pursued her passion, defying stereotypes in her community.

Sakhiwe Mkosana, a 29-year-old baritone, defied societal expectations and his own career path aspirations to embrace opera. While many young men in black communities in South Africa are often encouraged to pursue “classic” professions like becoming a doctor or lawyer, Sakhiwe Mkosana followed his passion for opera. He aspires to share stories with audiences and dispel stereotypes about careers in the arts.

Luvo Maranti, a 29-year-old South African, took a courageous step to pursue his opera dream, leaving his job in human resources. His journey from imitating Luciano Pavarotti with friends to singing his heart out at Operalia demonstrates his unwavering commitment to the art form. He embraced a challenging path, learning to read Western scores, singing in multiple languages, and impressing audiences with his talent.

Operalia, created by Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo 30 years ago, provides vital exposure for contestants, allowing them to perform in front of managers, agents, and casting directors. The competition offers an opportunity to be recognized on an international stage without the need to travel extensively. An international jury, composed of established Opera Casting Directors and General Managers, presided over by Plácido Domingo, selects the finalists, with ten singers advancing to the finals out of the 20 participants chosen for the semifinals.

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