August 5, Newsletter

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Full newsletter: Johan Botha celebration of life, Spring Season and Pretty Yende CD launch

For Johan Botha, 51, a country without too much money to invest in the performing arts was a blessing in disguise. Had there been enough scope in this country for a Wagnerian tenor, Botha may never have made the decision to join the chorus at the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth … from where he conquered not only Europe but the world. He was in 2004 appointed Kammersänger at the Vienna State Opera, a title that is one of the most prestigious in international opera and evidence of his status as one of the most important singers of our time.

In South Africa to sing four concerts – in Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Johannesburg and Pretoria- Botha is happy to be spending time with his family first in Rustenberg.

“It was my father who nurtured my love for singing. We listened to opera records together and by the time I was 10 I knew that I would be an opera singer.” Botha studied privately in Rustenburg, then attended the Technicon in Pretoria studying singing from 1985 to 1990.

For Louis Heyneman, CEO of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Botha’s concert here is a triumph. “Not only we delighted to have him back for the third time, but we are delighted to be the first to present him in South Africa after his triumph over liver cancer. This is why the concerts are presented in collaboration with CANSA. Botha’s voice is sheer gold, and the programme of Verdi, Mascagni, Puccini and Léhar arias has been specially chosen for his voice – he he is a Verdi specialist. The first half of the programme includes arias from Don Carlo, Otello and Aïda, sung on his own or with one, two or three of the stunning young singers who make up the Friends part of Johan Botha and Friends.”

Why no Wagner on the programme? He says that Wagner operas are so thoroughly composed that it is difficult to have them stand alone, unlike those in many other operas. He is, however, singing a bit of Wagner in Stellenbosch so that there are two different programmes – and hopefully people will attend both!

Botha has already appeared in public after his recovery – he has sung Die Walküre in Budapest and two performances of Turandot in Munich, and returns to Vienna where he is based with his wife and two sons to sing in another performance of Turandot, then Aïda and then he is off with Vienna State Opera to Japan to sing in Ariadne auf Naxos. Then it’s back to Berlin to sing Lohengrin.

That’s his schedule for the next few months, a small part of his normal seven year schedule that is already full. While this is good news for Botha, it’s not good news for South Africa since plans here, mainly for financial reasons, cannot be made so long in advance and the invitations come too late to fit in. The reason why he can sing now is because he is devoting some of his holiday time singing at home, and raising funds for CANSA and cancer awareness.

He enjoys singing here and “likes to share my talent with my fellow South African singers and I love Cape Town and the rest of my country tremendously." He says his first Teachers Jarmilla Tellinger and Eric Muller taught him everything about technique and he is ready to come back and sing whenever he can. In the meantime, his career takes him to the top opera houses in the world from Bayreuth where he made his debut a Siegmund to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, the Liceu in Barcelona and Staatsoper in Berlin. He also sings in concert with some of the foremost conductors from Barenboim to Gergiev and Thielemann. Of course there is more to Botha than his opera career – he is an ambassador for the Blue Shield Foundation, an organization that goes into war-torn areas to try and preserve art, artefacts and architecture. The main project at the moment is to restore the Buddha statues destroyed in Afghanistan by the Taliban. It’s rewarding for him to be involved in this, he says. WHY?

A selection of Botha’s many CDs and DVDs will be on sale at the Artscape concert on August 13 at 20:00. The concert, conducted by Bernhard Gueller, will also feature Goitsemang Lehobye (soprano), Bongiwe Nakani (mezzo) and Mandla Mndebele (baritone), will begin at 8 pm. Booking information Computicket on 0861 915 8000/ or Artscape Dial-A-Seat on 021 421 7695. More information on the concert from or 021 410 9809. The Stellenbosch concert takes place at the Endler Hall on August 16.

Cape Times 4 August 2016

Christina McEwan

Musicians know the pain of losing more than many people do …. Taking an audition or entering a competition requires great courage in addition to talent, for there can be hundreds competing and dozens on the short list for one single orchestral job. Or thousands whittled down to 50 for the quarter-finals in a singing competition. Goitsemang Lehobye (28, soprano) Bongiwe Nakani (27, mezzo) and Mandla Mndebele (26, baritone) three young singers joining world tenor Johan Botha in a concert with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra to celebrate life on August 13. Botha has just recovered from a bout with cancer, and part of the proceeds will go to CANSA.

Nakani has just returned from Operalia, the international competition organized by Placido Domingo in Mexico in July (LAST WEEKEND,), and she reached the semi-finals, no mean feat when you consider the wealth of brilliant singers from around the world who auditioned. She, with both Lehobye and Mndebela, reached the semi-finals of the 35th international Belvedere Singing Competition in Cape Town, also this July.

So what was the takeaway? For Lehobye, “I learned that competitions are not something by which to measure yourself. They are a great chance to connect with singers from around the world, and they make us realize what great talent we have here in South Africa.” Mndebele takes it even further: “The Belvedere made me realize that with so many young ambitious singers from around the world that I want to work even harder.” Nakani, who benefited, she says, from the warmth of Domingo, feels so honoured to have been in the presence of so great a man. It’s this kind of experience that makes it all worth while. “I always discover something new about myself, learn to interact with international singers, and appreciate what I do.” What makes them want to become singers? Lehobye loves the drama of being on stage and the chance to play people very different to herself. The first time she heard opera, she was struck by the emotion and the beauty of the voices and hopes this is what she imparts to others. She does, and will be sharing this abroad if she gets the funds to accept one of several study options she has been offered. Nakani loved the stories presented by opera singers and loves to be in character, living someone else’s life, knowing their fears, their pain, their love. Her dedication has paid off – she will be off Vienna at the end of August to sing in the Vienna State Opera, and she looks forward to learning and taking the opportunities offered to grow. Mndebele was a member of his school choir in Gauteng when he first heard opera, also fell in love, and decided to make it his career. He is off to the UK shortly to sing Mandela 3 in the Cape Town Opera production of The Mandela Trilogy, a work that will be accompanied overseas by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. Mndebele plans to study more, and in the meantime is preparing for Carmen, which will be at Artscape in October, He hopes his career will afford more international opportunities.

All three have something in common beyond their love of music and that’s they love what they are doing, admire each other’s sense of purpose, resilience and strength and above all love singing Verdi, which comprises half the Botha concert programme! Lehobye and Mndebele both sang recently in La Traviata. It’s the first time they have shared the stage, and will sing a quartet from Othello with Botha, but each has sung with at least one or the other and Lehobye and Mndebele both sing in Gauteng Choristers; and both have sung with the Black Tie Ensemble where Loveline Maduma was a role model to Lehoybe. “She has been a great influence on my life, the one who inspired me to sing. “ She numbers Pretty Yende as another influence. “She has lead the way in showing us how we can follow our dreams and succeed.” Her other main influences are her teacher Hanna van Schalkwyk and UCT opera director Kamal Khan. “Without them I would not be where I am.” For Mndebele, his role model is the American baritone Sherrill Milnes, who is remembered for, amongst others, his duet with Placido Domingo in Don Carlo, which Mndebele will be singing with Botha. Personal role models for all of them include the strong women in their lives – for Lehobye and Nakani it was their mothers, who offered tremendous support, despite the odds. Mndebele credits his fiancée with being his support.

Of course there is the chance that singing opens doors, not only for winners. Mndelebe, may not have won the competition but he won the heart of one of at least one of the judges and was offered an engagement with Gauteng Opera. He made his debut with the CPO in 2013 singing the Nelson Mass by Haydn; Lehobye has sung with the CPO on several occasions, for the first time in 2012 in a gala concert with Neil Shicoff. She is also singing in another of the four concerts Botha is giving in South Africa on this trip – in Johannesburg on August 23. Nakani made her CPO debut in 2012.

The gala tribute concert, Johan Botha and Friends, will take place under the direction of Bernhard Gueller with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra on August 13 at Artscape Opera at 20:00. The programme includes opera and operetta arias by Verdi, Puccini, Mascagni and Lehar. Tickets from Computicket on 0861 915 8000/ or Artscape Dial-A-Seat on 021 421 7695. More information on the concerts or 021 410 9809.

The season opens on November 10 with distinguished British piano duo, Nettle and Markham, who will play the Double Piano Concerto. Also on the programme are the Ruy Blas overture, also by Mendelssohn, and the Symphony no 5 in D minor by Shostakovich. On the podium will be Omri Hadari.

November 17 sees the New Apostolic Church Choir and soprano Siphamandla Yakuba, mezzo Elizabeth Frandsen, tenor Lukhanyo Moyake and baritone Mandla Mndebele in the Beethoven Choral Symphony, the Symphony no 9. This concert, presented in collaboration with the South African Society of Psychiatrists, is being repeated the following Saturday, November 19. The concert speaks of triumph over adversity and there will be a number of works with this theme in the first half, all conducted by Omri Hadari.

On November 24, Russian-American violinist Yevgeny Kutik will play the second Wieniawski Violin Concerto, while the Philharmonia Choir and mezzo-soprano Violina Anguelov will sing the powerful oratorio, Alexander Nevsky, by Prokofiev. On the programme for this and the next concert will be Daniel Boico. The season ends on December 1 with The Planets, the suite by Holst, Michael Thornton will play with Strauss Horn Concerto no 1 after the Miraculous Mandarin Suite by Bartok.

Subscription renewals run until September 3 at Artscape Dial-A-Seat on 021 421 7695. New subscriptions and single seats available from Dial-A-Seat and all Computicket outlets. All subscriptions attract a 20 per cent discount on seats which range from R150 to R230; an extra 10 per cent is available for members of Friends of Orchestral Music. Platform seats at R90 are also available at no discount. One new subscriber (subscribe before November 4) before and one existing subscriber also stand to win dinner with Maestro Hadari on November 8. More information on

Twelve extraordinary talented young classical music instrumentalists and singers who successfully auditioned to play at the 45th Western Cape Youth Music Festival will perform at the Artscape Theatre on Friday 19 August at 19.30. Presented by Artscape and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) in collaboration with the Distell Foundation, this prestigious annual event offers accomplished musicians the opportunity of playing with a symphony orchestra on a professional concert stage.

The soloists in programme order are : Bronwyn van Wieringen (21) on Piano, Amber De Decker (16) Violin, Cameron Williams (19) Saxophone, Ongama Mhlontlo (20) a Tenor, LeOui Rendsburg (22) Soprano, Kevin (Gyu-Min) Kim (21) Piano, Lisa Britz (16) Harp, Féroll-Jon Davids (19) Clarinet, Ntando Ngcume (22) Baritone, Abongile Fumba (26) Mezzo Soprano, Nombulelo Yende (25) Soprano and Ah-Young Moon (13) on Piano

Brandon Phillips, resident conductor and principal bassoon of the CTPO will conduct a varied and exciting programme with works by Mozart, Saint-Saëns, Handel, Gounod, Krommer, Rossini, Verdi, Rachmaninoff, Khachaturian and South African composers, Hendrik Hofmeyr and Allan Stephenson. Concert master is Patrick Goodwin.

As the festival is a celebration and not a competition, the appeal of the works presented, as well as good variety in the overall programme content, played an important part in the final selection of these soloists. Much of the biggest repertoire and most exciting to listen to and perform is in the concerto field (instrument with orchestra) and opera field (voice and orchestra).

The adjudicating panel were Alastair Cockburn (Artistic Co-ordinator), Daniel Neal (Librarian and adhoc Cellist for the CTPO), Aviva Pelham (well-known opera star and director) and Phillip Swales (former Music Subject Advisor of the Western Cape Education Department).

Marlene le Roux, CEO of Artscape says; ‘Each year the amount of musicians auditioning increases, which is indicative of the growing interest youth have in classical music. This year there were 21 candidates from Stellenbosch and 33 from Cape Town. They represent the remarkable talent of many up and coming musicians in the Western Cape. A dream is realized as they perform on stage accompanied by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. We acknowledge the teachers and music institutions that nurture and support these young musicians, raising the standards of excellence each year.’

Tickets cost R80. Pensioners and students R40 with valid ID, Scholars 5-18 R40. Block bookings of 10 or more less 10%. Book through Artscape Dial-a-Seat 021 421 7695, Computicket, Shoprite and Checkers outlets, on line or call 0861 915 8000.

This event is sold out every year so it is suggested you book your tickets now : BOOK HERE

For more information contact Thandi Mlungwana on 021 410 9209 or Debbie Damons on 021 410 9915.

In one of the greatest of all classical ballets, international guest artists Hikaru Kobayashi and David Moore, principal dancers with the Royal Ballet and the Stuttgart Ballet respectively, will dance Aurora and the Prince in two performances, while the other eight performances are shared by Laura Bosenberg and Thomas Thorne, Angela Hansford and Daniel Szybkowski and Cleo Ames and Conrad Nusser. Booking at Computicket and Artscape Dial-A-Seat on 021-4617695. More information about CPO performance
Pretty Yende will release her debut in September 2016, and she will be in South Africa to launch it. Called “A Journey” and released on the Sony label, the CD has been a particularly joyful labour of love for Yende, as it celebrates the milestones in her extraordinary musical journey, rising to the top of the opera world with unparalleled speed. Ms Yende has the Lakmé duet (performed with mezzo Kate Aldrich) which first opened her heart to the world of opera. It also includes ‘Vous que l’on dit’ from Rossini’s Le Comte Ory, in which she made her Metropolitan Opera debut with Juan Diego Flórez. Other works on the CD are works with which she won competitions – “Je veux vivre” from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, with which she won the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in 2009; ‘Ah, la pena’ from Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, which won for her Plácido Domingo’s Operalia Competition in 2011. You can buy this CD from Peter Kramer at Mezzoforte Music via / 021 592 5715 or 079 833 7617.
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