Opera comes to Ottery

Pupils at Chris Hani Arts and Culture High School in Khayelitsha listening to the Cape Town Opera facilitators.

Cape Town Opera’s Youth Development and Education department concluded their annual national schools tour last month in a quest to nurture and prepare potential solo competitors in the different categories of the art.

The national tour, which is funded by the National Lotteries Commission, was held in six provinces and included Polokwane, Soweto, Kroonstad, Welkom, Bloemfontein, Upington, Kimberley, Mthatha, Queenstown, East London, Mossel Bay and Cape Town.

It started on Thursday February 23 and concluded at the Ottery Youth Centre last month where schools taking part included Chris Hani Arts and Culture High, Harry Gwala Secondary and Zola business High School in Khayelitsha; ID Mkhize High in Gugulethu; Phandulwazi High, Zola Business High, Makupula High, Khayamandi High and Intsebenziswano Secondary in Philippi; Manzonthombo Secondary in Mowbray and New Eisleben in Crossroads.

Madré Loubser, head of youth development and education at Cape Town Opera, said the tour, which first took place in 2005 and every year thereafter until the Covid-19 pandemic cut short the 2020 tour, was a huge success and many more pupils were able to attend this year.

Ms Loubser said the department reached about 1500 pupils with the intention to reach future potential opera singers and to prepare them for the South African Schools Choral Eisteddfod (SASCE).

The SASCE progresses through three phases, regional, provincial and national, from May to July and once regional and provincial rounds have been completed, the final vocal showdown happens in Gauteng during the winter school holidays in July and the workshop prepares potential solo competitors in the different categories of the eisteddfod.

At the workshop pupils were taken through a physical warm-up 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 shared their vocal skills and musical knowledge with pupils 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.

Ms Loubser said for many of these pupils, 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.”

The Cape Town Opera is the only full-time opera company on the African continent.