At a glittering event at the V&A Waterfront on Thursday, 24 February 2022, Cape Town Opera announced a diverse, innovative and creative programme for 2022, encompassing both the artistic and educational.
Artistic Director Magdalene Minnaar, who started her tenure with the company on 1 January 2022 has hit the ground running; after immersing herself in all aspects of the company, she and Cape Town Opera are now ready to contribute to the well-being of the arts in a post-COVID environment.
To kick off the season, Cape Town Opera presents a new offering in March called Opera Blocks. Utilising the expertise of an occupational therapist, music, song and play are brought together in a calm, immersive environment on the stage to stimulate, entertain and spark imagination in the little ones and hopefully instil in them a life-long passion for opera. Opera Blocks is intended for babies from birth to 18 months.
It would not be untoward for Cape Town Opera to boast about the accomplishments of its renowned Chorus under the guidance of Marvin Kernelle. Building on the local and international success of Grace Notes and African Angels, the Chorus will present Icons, a concert of evergreen operatic choruses including the Anvil Chorus, Slave Chorus, Humming Chorus and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Opera lovers throughout the Western Cape can look forward to attending Icons in person as the Chorus will undertake day tours to towns in the region.
Bon Appétit!, a delightful pairing of music and food under the musical direction of José Dias, is brought to you in collaboration with the Vineyard Hotel. Chef Mike Bassett conjures up the flavours of Bernstein’s La Bonne Cuisine: Four Recipes for Voice and Piano and Bach’s Coffee Cantata as hors d'oeuvres and main course. For dessert, Fleur du Cap award-winning soprano Janelle Visagie will tantalise the tastebuds with Julia Child's "deliciously decadent" chocolate cake recipe, reincarnated as a musical monologue by American Composer Lee Hoiby from a transcript of an episode of The French Chef.
During Easter, Cape Town Opera and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Brandon Philips and starring the Cape Town Opera Chorus, Soloists and Young Artists, will present Handel's celebrated Messiah at the historic Toringkerk in Paarl. Organist Mario Nell will ensure that the capabilities of the church’s magnificent Norman and Beards organ, manufactured in 1906 in Norwich, England, are on full display.
The Duet Gala Concert, a fundraising collaboration between Cape Town Opera and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and a highlight of the season, will take place in June in the Artscape Opera House. Opera lovers will be treated to a stunning line-up of South African singers performing beautiful operatic music ranging from Puccini to Wagner. German-Polish conductor Adam Szmidt will conduct the concert.
In late autumn, opera patrons will have their first taste of a full-scale opera with Mozart's opera buffa masterpiece Le nozze di Figaro. “In many ways, Le nozze di Figaro is the perfect opera,” suggests Minnaar. “It offers a good dollop of farce, adultery, role-playing and cunning scheming. It also touches, however, on abuse and mental health issues, as seen in the Countess’s poignant navigation of her fracturing marriage.”
Le Nozze di Figaro will be presented in June at the Artscape Opera House and as a touring production to Gauteng in July. The touring production will be presented in collaboration with Sempre Opera. Audiences in both provinces can look forward to hearing Conroy Scott as Figaro, Brittany Smith as Susanna, William Berger as the Count and Siphamandla Moyake as the Countess, while renowned bass Rouel Beukes makes a welcome return to the opera stage as Antonio.
A touring production of L’elisir d’amore by Donizetti awaits in October. One of the most performed operas worldwide, L’elisir d’amore follows the capricious courtship of the clumsy yet charming Nemorino and the beautiful Adina and boasts one of the most famous tenor arias of all time, Una furtiva lagrima.
Both tours, as well as the Duet Gala Concert, are made possible by the generous support of the Judith Neilson Head Trust.
November will see Cape Town Opera collaborate with the University of Cape Town Opera School in Handel’s Alcina at the Artscape Theatre. Alcina is a spellbinding tale of a sorceress put to the test by true love. It was Handel’s last great success as an opera composer and will most certainly appeal to lovers of baroque opera.
At the event, the company’s latest intake of Young Artists, a training and employment programme for exceptionally talented young singers, were formally introduced: Monica Mhangwana (mezzo-soprano), Alida Stoman, (soprano), Van Wyk Venter (baritone) join Lwazi Dlamini (baritone), who is in the second year of the programme.
On the educational side, the Cape Town Opera Youth Development and Education Department depart this coming weekend for the annual National Schools Tour. The team of nine, which consists of a project manager, five professional singers, one pianist and two drivers, will travel across the country and present workshops to participants of the ABC Motsepe South African Schools Choral Eisteddfod (SASCE). The tour focuses on developing young opera singers in South Africa and assists learners with the SASCE repertoire.
This year also sees the Youth Development and Education team continuing their outstanding work with the Foundation Studio, a programme offering free theory of music, piano and voice lessons to selected high school learners in disadvantaged areas. The goal of the programme is to help bridge the gap to subject music pupils.
Youth Development and education department projects are made possible with the support of: Western Cape Government Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, City of Cape Town, Maria Marina, Silversea, Rotary eClub Hamburg-Connect and the HCI Foundation.
Cape Town Opera has also launched an innovative educational project for all opera practioners, from singers to coaches to production and technical staff, called OperaLAB. It is a year-long free weekly workshop programme that aims to inspire and assist the next generation to bridge the gap between tertiary education and the professional environment. Through a series of workshops presented by industry professionals, graduates will get the opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to progress seamlessly to the professional stage.
“Cape Town Opera has chosen the theme of diversity, sustainability and creativity this year,” Minnaar explains. “I am convinced that we remain one of the most diverse opera companies in the world and we continuously challenge ourselves in this regard. As for sustainability, Cape Town Opera has already proven its mettle by not only making it through the trials and tribulations of COVID but by actually presenting eight full-length operas in the past two years, unheard for an opera company in this time. With an eye to the future, we intend to continue to do whatever we do in the most sustainable manner possible. We shall harness our in-house and individual creativity and explore the tremendous talent we have available locally, including directors and designers. We have to attend to the entire ecology of opera in determining our priorities, so we shall explore creative ways of serving our audiences and expanding the reach of opera to all in our country,” she said.