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PRESS: Cape Town Opera's National Schools Tour 2023 starts this February

Allison Foat

 

On 23 February 2023 Cape Town Opera’s Youth Development and Education department kicks off their annual National Schools Tour, funded and made possible by by the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), to six provinces, beginning in Polokwane, Limpopo. The first tour took place in 2005 and every year thereafter until the COVID-19 pandemic cut short the 2020 tour.

The Lotto funded National Schools Tour is based on the Open Section category of ABC Motsepe South African Schools Choral Eisteddfod (SASCE), driven by the Department of Basic Education. SASCE remains one of the most crucial school enrichment programmes, promoting unity in diversity, national reconciliation, social transformation and cohesion among learners through choral music.


SASCE progresses through three phases from May to July: regional, provincial and national. Once regional and provincial rounds have been completed, the final vocal showdown happens in Gauteng during the winter school holidays in July. In a quest to nurture and prepare potential solo competitors in the different categories of the eisteddfod, the Cape Town Opera team of six facilitators, two pianists and production support, draw alongside. They will present workshops encompassing six provinces, in Polokwane, Soweto, Kroonstad, Welkom, Bloemfontein, Upington, Kimberley, Mthatha, Queenstown, East London, Mossel Bay and Cape Town. 


Learners are taken through a physical warmup and vocal bootcamp in a group, after which they are allocated to work one-on-one with a facilitator on the SASCE repertoire prescribed for their specific voice type. In these break-away sessions, facilitators share their vocal skills and musical knowledge with learners in order to improve their diction, breathing, phrasing, posture and acting and to help foster an understanding of how best to perform the specific arias or pieces to be performed.  This year’s solo repertoire demands mastery of the correct pronunciation in five different languages: isiZulu, Swati, Tswana, Italian and French. It is also important for singers to understand every word they are singing to communicate with the audience.


“For many of these learners, especially those from rural areas, this is the only opportunity they have to interact with professional musicians and find their own voices as budding young artists of the future. South Africa is bursting with operatic talent but one of the many challenges faced by aspiring singers is access to music literacy and education. Our aim with this tour, is to help bridge this gap,” says Madré Loubser, Head of Youth Development and Education (YDE) at Cape Town Opera.

Many of South Africa’s current international opera stars were first introduced to opera through one of CTO’s visits. Soprano Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha, who now enjoys an international career as a soloist, set her heart on becoming an opera singer after Cape Town Opera visited her school in Limpopo. When asked what her message to the 2023 competitors is, Rangwanasha emphasized the importance of enjoyment when making music, singing in different languages and singing together with others. She also wishes them best of luck for this year’s SASCE competition.


Being well-prepared is half the battle won and Cape Town Opera does all in its power to support each young person to gain the necessary confidence to approach the competitive arena with performances of excellence. After the completion of each workshop, facilitators give a demonstration of how a specific aria and ensemble piece should be interpreted.


This year’s Cape Town Opera team of facilitators consists of Nonhlanhla Yende (YDE Coordinator and Facilitator and mezzo-soprano), Dineo Bokala (soprano), Asisipho Petu (mezzo-soprano), Mongezi Mosoaka (tenor), Van Wyk Venter (baritone) and Lwazi Dlamini (baritone). The pianists are Yohan Chun and Francois Botha. Something special about this year’s tour is that the majority of the singers will return to their hometowns to assist and inspire the next generation. 


Cape Town Opera is the only full-time opera company on the African continent and this project is unique in its approach, level of intensity and attention to detail.  On behalf of Cape Town Opera, Alex Gabriel, Managing Director said,”Our heartfelt thanks goes to the National Lotteries Commission for their generous funding of our National Schools Tour, which enables us to share their knowledge and train the exceptional young voices of South Africa

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