Introducing the team at Gauteng Opera

GAUTENG OPERA

With the slogan, “Opera for Everyone”, Gauteng Opera aims to make the original, pure, untainted art-form of Opera relevant and applicable in today’s society. We do this by offering Opera performances in different forms that can apply to different groups of the community (i.e. Opera to the core, Opera for fun, Opera for the future, etc). Most importantly, Gauteng Opera discovers musical talent across South Africa and enhances the lives of young people, developing their singing talent by offering world-class training that encourages excellence in vocal and performing arts. We have an opera academy which trains and moulds raw voices of these talented young people, introduces them to vocal and presentation techniques, offers them experience and prepares them for a successful future career in theatre and the performing arts. Working as Black Tie Ensemble and BTE VO1SS in previous years, Gauteng Opera has trained and produced many singers who have now been successful at improving their performance quality, create work opportunities and are reaching great heights locally and abroad.
INTRODUCING THE TEAM AT GAUTENG OPERA



Khumbuzile Dhlamini
 Soprano

Khumbu, as friends call her, joined Gauteng Opera in January 2014 and is the newest member of the group, Forté.  We asked her a few questions to get to know her better.

Tell us a little bit about yourself – where you are from and how you got to be a singer.  

I come from Durban in a Township called Clermont and if it wasn’t for my science teacher who was also the choir master of the school, I guess I wouldn’t have thought of becoming a singer. I was forced to go to choir practice after school.

Where did you study and what is the most memorable event or person you left with and why?

I studied at the University of KZN in Durban and the memorable event was when I won a competition at school and I got an opportunity to sing with the orchestra for the first time. 

What do you think is the toughest thing to give up in order to achieve a great and successful career as opera singer? 

At times you have to give up friends or family because you travel and have to surround yourself with people who will help you to achieve your dreams, so yes, you lose some people along the way.

Do you find it difficult to remember or to sing in all the different operatic languages and which do you find the hardest to learn?  

Most of the time it is really not that hard, but I tell you French and English are the worst for me.

What is it about opera music that you love?  

I love the connection of the different emotions on stage, and we transform to characters of people through voice and music – just that ability to be connected to a character which may be completely different from yours.

Who is your favourite operatic composer? 

I have two, Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi

Do you have a ‘dream role’ you would love to sing one day or already have?  

Yes. Tosca, Mimi from La Bohème and Amelia from Un ballo in maschera.

What is your favourite food or drink?

I can eat my avocado anytime

Do you like reading? If yes, what book is on your bedside table?  

I’m such a “visualist”, I tell you I’m still trying to get that part of my life right, for me – turn the story into a movie, then I’ll definitely watch it.

If you were president for a day what would you do differently?  

More money to the arts in this country.

How did you find your place (settle) within Forté? Was it difficult, since you are the newest member? 
It was very easy, they are such wonderful people – more like a family away from home.

What are the challenges of being an opera singer?  

Working very hard for very little, especially in this country, keeping healthy at all times in order to be able to deliver, keeping your voice in good shape – it’s constant work.

Who is your favourite singer and why? 

I must say I admire Maria Callas – not so crazy about her voice, but her ability to make any role she sang work for her and her style and her strong personality.

If you had any advice to give to aspiring singers what would you say?  

Have a clear vision of what you want and be passionate about it. Always push to achieve to be the best that you can, keep your eyes focused on your dream and always remember that we can all be aspiring singers, but our dreams are not necessarily the same, so get to know yourself.

What do you think is the future of Opera in South Africa?  

I think we can have a great future if we can focus on telling our own stories, market our cultures, languages and sounds to the world – with the magnificent talent we have, we can create a new dimension in our genre with our stories. Europeans did it, why can’t we? Growth is about development and development means something new must be created.

Kagiso Boroko
Tenor

Of all the members of Gauteng Opera, Kagiso has been with the company the longest, starting out as a student in the Academy and then joined the soloists as a junior artist before becoming a full-blown member of Forté during May 2013.  We asked him a few questions to get to know him better.

If you had to describe yourself in one word what would you say?

Perfectionist

Who was the one person who inspired or still inspire you to choose and stay in the field of opera?

Our CEO, Marcus Desando

When studying opera as a member of the ‘Incubator Scheme’ of the Black Tie Ensemble, what is the most memorable event or person you left with and why?

My first performance with BTE at the inauguration of president Zuma.

What do you think is the toughest thing to give up in order to achieve a great and successful career as opera singer?  

For me it will be my family if I should get a chance to sing in Europe or America for a long period of time.

Do you find it difficult to remember or to sing in all the different operatic languages and which do you find the hardest to learn?

No, I don’t find it difficult to remember any of the operatic languages, but the hardest is probably French.

You also have another skill / talent on the more technical side of theatre performances – tell us a little bit about that.

I have a great interest in sound- and lighting design and do most of the sound set-ups when Forte performs at events where we are required to bring our own sound equipment. 

Who is your favourite operatic composer?

Giuseppe Verdi

What is your favourite opera and why?

La Traviata, because it is one of Verdi’s most beautiful works

What is it about Forté that makes you look forward to work every day?

My colleagues are fun to work with and together we produce beautiful music.

What is your favourite food or drink?

‘Boerewors & Pap’

Do you like reading? If yes, what book is on your bedside table?

I do not want to lie, so no, I do not like reading. 

What do you think are the challenges of being an opera singer?

For me, it must be the fact that I cannot ‘party’ a lot – have to be responsible, especially when performances are lined up.

Who is your favourite opera singer and why?  

Ramon Vargas. He has such a unique voice and he sings very well.

If you had any advice to give to aspiring singers what would you say?

They must go to school and study opera, but make absolutely sure that is what you want to do and even so, try to study something else too, because in South Africa it can be very tough to survive as an opera singer.

What do you think is the future of Opera in South Africa?

The future looks currently very bleak for opera in South Africa as companies are cutting back so much of their budgets – even the lottery is cutting back on future funding.


Phenye Modiane
Tenor
Phenye Modiane joined Gauteng Opera in 2012 and since then performed regularly in concerts and corporate events.  His recent triumph was singing the role of Ferrando in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.  Phenye was one of the founding members of Forté.

Tell us a little bit about yourself – where you are from and how you got to be a singer?
I was born and bred in Ga-rankuwa. I was raised by a single parent, I’m a first born and I have two siblings. I was an active child. I participated in soccer, athletics, drama and the choir. I participated in school choirs from primary school to high school, church choir and community choirs but it was in high school, in my matric-year (2002) when my life changed. My school choir conductor asked me and trained me to sing a solo for school choir competition (SASCE). I sang an aria from Die Zauberflöte (Dies bildnis ist bezaubern schön) in English and represented North West Province at the finals. That’s where my love for music started.

If you had to describe yourself in one word what would you say?

Easy-going

Who was the one person who inspired or still inspire you to choose and stay in the field of opera?

My school choir conductor at Modiri High School, the late Mrs J.C Motshwane – may she rest in peace.

Where did you study and what is the most memorable event or person you left with and why?

I studied at the Tshwane Univeristy of Technology (Vocal Art). The most memorable event was at the beginning of my first year when we went to watch an opera (Princess Magogo) at the State Theatre, it was my first time in a theatre and the first time I watched an opera live. And that inspired me until today.

What do you think is the toughest thing to give up in order to achieve a great and successful career as opera singer? 

There are lots of things, but for me it’s the lack of time for family and friends, because you’re either learning or rehearsing music or you are busy with performances.

Do you find it difficult to remember or to sing in all the different operatic languages and which do you find the hardest to learn?

English is the hardest to remember and the hardest to sing!

Before you became a singer, you played soccer.  How and when did you make a “career change”?

Singing a solo for the school choir and representing the province – that journey changed my life. I made a career change in 2002.

And, before you joined Gauteng Opera, you performed with another group / ensemble – tell us a little bit about that.

When I was at TUT, there was a singing competition at UNISA and I entered as soloist.  The night before the competition I was walking to the flat with my friends when one of them told us that they entered the competition as a soloist and the ensemble category, but didn’t have an ensemble, so we decided to help him. We rehearsed in the morning of the competition and we won the competition, and was the beginning of the “Gaabo-Motho Tenors”. With this group I’ve been around the country and abroad, performed with great artists like, Joseph Clark, Jannie Moolman, Hanli Stapela, Sibongile Mngoma and Soshanguve Tycoons, to name a few. With this group I learned how to work with people from different backgrounds, to be patient, to listen and what it means to be an ensemble.

Who is your favourite operatic composer?

Giuseppe Verdi.

What is your favourite opera and why?

La Traviata – the music and the drama always speaks to me.

Do you have a ‘dream role’ you would love to sing one day or already have?
My dream role is Alfredo from La Traviata.

What is it about Forté that makes you look forward to work every day?

Their love for music, always trying to do things differently and the hard work they put into making their performance flawless.

What is your favourite food or drink?

Traditional food – tripe and drinks – Stoney, Heineken beer and Jameson whisky.

Do you like reading? If yes, what book is on your bedside table?

I do like reading and right now I’m reading a motivational book by Joel Osteen, “It’s your Time”.

What do you think are the challenges of being an opera singer?

When people expect us to sing/perform for free and for less because they think it’s just a hobby. When you have a performance and you are sick or your voice is giving problems. Also, working with a difficult director or conductor is very challenging.

Who is your favourite opera singer and why?

Placido Domingo and recently Rolando Villazon.

Who would you love to work with on stage in the future? (singer/s / director / conductor) 

Singer: I wish to work with two great singers, Pretty Yende and Sibongile Khumalo ; Director: I wish to work with Angelo Gobbato again and a conductor: I wish to work with Jeremy Silver.

If you had any advice to give to aspiring singers what would you say?

Study, know your craft and work hard.

What do you think is the future of Opera in South Africa?

I believe we are going through a tough phase as an art-form and things will get better in terms of funding because the government’s focus is on other things at present. I think we have a great future ahead of us, we shouldn’t give up, and we should keep knocking on government’s doors until someone recognizes our art-form. I believe things will get better.



Marcus Desando
Chief Executive Officer
MARCUS DESANDO started working for The Black Tie Ensemble in 2010 and was offered the post of Chief Executive Officer in 2013 with the launch of Gauteng Opera.

Tell us a little bit about yourself – where you are from and how you got to be where you are now?  

Oh wow, that is never an easy one. I am a Pretoria-Boy – born and bred and a brother of two siblings; and son to a great mother who raised me to follow my heart and never give up.  I started my career in opera, first as a singer in 1987 and then moved to Cape Town to be part of the CAPAB studio from 1994. This is where my life changed so-so much. I was introduced to the total creative side of theatre and my directing ‘light’ was ignited. I have been blessed with great opportunities to sing and direct internationally and I know all that prepared me for my present position. 

If you had to describe yourself in one word what would you say?

Tenacious

Who was the one person who inspired or still inspire you to choose and stay in the field of opera? 
I had a lot of great people in my life and was very fortunate to have angels that inspired me, so I would say it is everyone who had a hand in ‘opening doors’ for me in my career and I love my country and the art form of Opera so much that, that is inspiration enough for me.

What do you think is the toughest thing to give up in order to achieve a great and successful career in opera?

The idea that life can be predictable.

Before you became the CEO of Gauteng Opera, you were an opera singer.  How and when did you make a “career change”?

I didn’t really make a “career change” as you put it. I just added directing and administration on my list of capabilities. I still sing once in a while (for the right price of course – lol)

Who is your favourite operatic composer? 

I am torn between Verdi and Mozart.

What is your favourite opera and why?

My favourite opera by far is Attila by Giuseppe Verdi as it is one of the most beautifully written operas for the voice.

Do / did you have a ‘dream role’ you would love to sing one day or already have?

I do have one role I would love to do and it is King Herod in Salome by Richard Strauss. It is a character tenor’s dream.

What is it about Gauteng Opera that makes you look forward to work every day?

Gauteng Opera aims to create Opera for everyone and I am driven by the idea that the world AND SOUTH AFRICA will wake up to the fact that we could be the next power house of voices if we celebrate the talent we have and nurture it so the masses can enjoy the fruits.

What is your favourite food or drink?

Lol ‘touchy’ one, I love chicken in all forms and I am a whisky guy.

Do you like reading? If yes, what book is on your bedside table?

Love reading! I think I have currently five books on my bedside table and a lot more on my tablet, so phew!.. I am reading books by the following authors; Zakes Mda, Mandla Langa, Dalai Lama and Gerard Van Rensburg, to name a few; and also some on leadership and management.

What do you think are the challenges of being an opera singer?

The fact that you have to invest so much of your heart, money, time and love into something that is very precarious and sometimes, especially in SA, very uncertain.

Who is your favourite opera singer and why?

When I was studying, I loved Carlo Bergonzi for his ease and chocolate vocal sound. Now I have fallen in love with a few South African singers who make my heart sing – the likes of Pumeza Matshikiza and Pretty Yende, to name a few.

Who would you love to work with on stage in the future? (singer/s / conductor) 

For me, it’s not the name that is important, but rather any singer and conductor that still enjoys exploring this wonderful storytelling medium called, OPERA.

If you had any advice to give to aspiring singers what would you say?

Study, study, study … and read! Enriching one’s mind is always a sexy thing on stage.

What do you think is the future of Opera in South Africa?

I would to say it is either-or, but the future of opera is in the people of this country. So it will be what we want it to be and are willing to fight for.

Arnold Cloete
Chief Operating Officer
ARNOLD CLOETE started working for The Black Tie Ensemble in 2000 when he was approached by Neels Hansen and Mimi Coertse to assist with the fledgling company.  With the total restructure of the company, he was offered the post of Chief Operating Officer in 2013 with the launch of Gauteng Opera.

Tell us a little bit about yourself – where you are from and how you got to be where you are now?

I grew up in Swellendam, a small town about 2-hours drive from Cape Town. I moved to Pretoria for my studies in Theatre Crafts and Musical Theatre and started working for PACT in 1993.  With the closure of the State Theatre in 2000, I joined BTE.

If you had to describe yourself in one word what would you say?

Diligent

Who was the one person who inspired or still inspire you to choose and stay in the field of opera? 

The “opera-thing” sort of happened by chance, but I was always interested in theatre. In my first year of studies, I met Emma Renzi, then the head of Opera at Pretoria Technikon and I think my interest grew from working with her every year on her opera productions.  She even once ventured in casting me in one of her operas. Today it is the art form that inspires me and not a person or people.

What do you think is the toughest thing to give up in order to achieve a great and successful career in opera?
I am not an opera singer, but I think to achieve success in any form of theatre, you have to give a lot of your social life – when friends and family have holidays or weekends, you normally work by preparing, rehearsing or performing.

Who is your favourite operatic composer? 
I am torn between Verdi and Puccini, but love Bellini also very much.

What is your favourite opera and why?

I actually hate to admit it, but it is probably La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi.  It was also my first opera I ever seen and the reason I love opera.

What is it about Gauteng Opera that makes you look forward to work every day?

Gauteng Opera for me is like home as I have been with the company for so long and even today, it still follows the original vision of creating careers in opera for South Africans.

What is your favourite food or drink? 

Tough one, but I love home-cooked food with vegetables.

Do you like reading? If yes, what book is on your bedside table?

I enjoy reading very much – does not get as much time for it as I would want to. At the moment I am reading a Clive Cussler, but is also busy with The hare with amber eyes by Edmund de Waal.

Who is your favourite opera singer and why?

Placido Domingo has always been a favourite and I think it is because he is such a versatile singer and not only sang so many operatic styles with ease, but also performed well – “no park and bark”.

If you had any advice to give to aspiring singers what would you say?

Make very sure opera / theatre is what you want to do and then study, read and work hard – be willing to start at the bottom.

What do you think is the future of Opera in South Africa?

I believe there is a future for opera in South Africa, there is a lot of interest in the music genre and we must just ‘keep at it’ and never give up.