Cape Town Opera Makes History with 4 Productions in 4 Different Countries
It's not simply the inspiration of living under our beautiful flat-topped mountain with its snowy table cloth that makes Cape Town the undisputed opera capital of South Africa. There are other important factors. Like the support and presence of a vibrant university with a music department that year after year trains young men and women from all backgrounds to become polished performers in multi-languages.
Maybe it is the combo of our stunning city and the continual output of talented singers, but somehow Cape Town has been blessed with attracting a succession of men and women including Giuseppe Paganelli in the 1920s, Scotsman Erik Chisholm, Italian POW Gregorio Fiasconaro from 1946-1965 and Milan-born Angelo Gobbato in the 1980-1990s. They made it their lives work to teach and direct youthful baritones, sopranos and chorus members and hone them into a unit which became a company with a name and a sound.
The cherry on the top is finding an artistic individual with business flair who can make the right connections to help that company survive in tough economic times, particularly in post-apartheid South Africa where funding opera takes a back seat to building basic houses. Right now Cape Town Opera is unbelievably fortunate to have South African-born Michael Williams at the helm. Since 2000 when he became GM, and MD in 2005, CTO has spread its wings and performed in Berlin, Nurnberg, Oslo, Malmo, Umea, Monte Carlo, London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Paris, Melbourne, Perth, Cardiff and now is again in Munich. These tours have kept our singers and singing alive both in South Africa and abroad. Today, 11th July Cape Town Opera will be performing in 4 different countries with 4 different productions. Show Boat is on stage in England, Porgy and Bess in Spain, African Angels in Germany and Spirit of Unity Concert in Wales.
Many individuals who were born or trained in Cape Town have made names for themselves overseas. In July soprano Pretty Yende and tenor Colin Lee will make a bit of artistic history when they team up in the leading roles in Rossini's Le comte Ory at La Scala, Milan. Both are currently performing in the world's major opera houses.
The list of other ex-pats working abroad is too long to mention but there are at least 28 sopranos, 6 mezzos, 3 counter-tenors, 18 tenors and 18 bass-baritones flying the banner for CTO!
Yet soloists alone do not make a great opera company. The quality of our chorus plays a major role in the impact of any opera production. Hence the delight among CTO's singing "foot soldiers" that last year the group received the "Chorus of the Year" award at the 2013 International Opera Awards in London, emerging as one of the most compelling, varied and exciting ensembles on the international Opera circuit.