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International Opera Company of the Month: Opera Africa


In this month's 'International Opera Company' feature, we bring you South Africa's Opera Africa Company!

Opera Africa was established in 1994 in Durban, as a national non-profit organisation to reposition opera in a changed arts environment after the closure of the fully state funded opera companies. From 1994 to 2004 Opera Africa functioned as a well-accredited touring opera company in its quest to take main-stage productions across a wider geographical and demographic spread throughout South Africa. Its educational arm focused on formerly deprived township communities in KwaZulu Natal with great success.

Until 2002 Opera Africa focused on the development of community choruses in operatic productions.Magic Flute, Carmen, Faust, La Traviata, Rigoletto, Princess Magogo and UShaka were major local and international touring productions that featured well-established community choruses.

In 1999 Opera Africa commissioned the first Zulu opera Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu by Mzilikazi Khumalo based on a Zulu text by Themba Msimang. The work attracted world-wide attention when the premiere performance was broadcast live to 5 continents. The production has toured throughout South Africa from 2002 and also featured at major opera houses and festivals in the USA and Europe.

An Opera Africa cast was formed in kwaZulu Natal in 2001 specifically for national and international productions of Princess Magogo with Sibongile Khumalo in the title role, and hailed as the first authentic African opera by the composer Mzilikazi Khumalo. The Opera Africa chorus included principals of schools, teachers, corporate workers, chorus masters, and opera students. Since 2005 the base of this chorus has been extended to include singers from the Free State, Gauteng, and the Western and Eastern Cape.

Opera Africa relocated to Sandton in 2005 to be in close proximity of its partners, the South Africa State Theatre, Pretoria, Joburg Theatre, Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra. International partnerships were established in 2010 with Theater Erfurt, Germany and the Teatro Lirico Sperimentale, Italy to exchange productions, conductors, singers and theatre technicians. This development expanded OA operational opportunities and activities to feature South African young artists alongside acclaimed International Artists. The Theater Erfurt exchange program over 3 years was launched with Verdi's La Traviata in 2010 at the State Theatre.

An educational outreach program to build new and representative audiences has been met with enthusiastic and overwhelming response from schools and the general public in the wider Gauteng.

Opera Africa is acutely aware of the heed to develop and refine young talent who wish to enter the profession. To this end, the Opera Africa Studio provides advanced coaching and refinement of skills for young developing artists and opportunities to participate in local and international productions, workshops and competitions.

To learn more about Opera Africa, click here.

Photos and info courtesy of OA.

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