Opera students in Domingo’s Operalia

23 Jun 2016
23 Jun 2016

Three alumni from the South African College of Music have been invited to attend the Placido Domingo Operalia. Bongiwe Nakani, Levy Sekgapane and Sandile Sikhosana are part of a group of 40 quarter finalists for the 2016 competition which takes place 19 to 24 July at the Teatro Degollado in Gaudalara, Mexico. This will be the 23rd installment of the international competition.

The Placido Domingo Operalia was established in 1993 in order to identify and support exceptional young opera stars. Participants are drawn from countries around the world to compete in front of a panel of international opera professionals. Participation in this competition is highly contested because of the opportunity for international exposure and because the event offers the biggest monetary prize of any competition of its kind in the world. In addition, patron Placido Domingo affords both winners and contestants with opportunities for career mentorship and fast-tracking based on his personal recommendation as well as the possibility for engagement on various of his opera projects. The international singing competition is open to opera singers between the ages of 18 to 32 and it is hosted in a different city each year.

Pictured left: UCT alumnus Levy Sekgapane with Italian mezzo soprano Chiara Amaru and Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, who is the music director of the Orchestra di Giuseppe Verdi.

The UCT group is understandably excited about the opportunity. Sandile Sikhosana pursued a Performers Diploma in Opera from 2009 to 2014. He has now been accepted for postgraduate studies at Birmingham Conservatoire in the United Kingdom, on full scholarship. Since leaving UCT, he has been working at Cape Town Opera. Bongiwe Nakani obtained her Performers Diploma in Opera from the University of Cape Town in 2014. She was awarded the Gregorio Fiasconaro Prize in 2014.  She is currently completing her Postgraduate Diploma in Opera. According to the head of UCT’s Opera programme, Professor Kamal Khan, this competition represents an incredible opportunity for opera students. “One of the most significant things about Operalia is the intensity of its financial backing: the competitors are flown and housed there saving  the students and those of us in their support network from the endless stress of local fundraising. Another, is the centrality of Placido Domingo as a figure of advice, encouragement and matchless access to international opera houses. His winners have done very well as a result of this competition,” says Khan. 

UCT alumnus (opera) Levy Sekgapane chats with audience members after a concert in St Petersburg.

Although tenor Sekgapane will not be joining the competition this year (due to other work commitments), he says that he feels incredibly honoured to have been selected for the Placido Domingo Operalia. This, from an individual who has already achieved several accolades in his singing career to date. In 2015, he won first prize at the 34th International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition beating 1314 hopefuls from around the world. Sekgapane obtained both his Performers Diploma in Opera (2014) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Opera (2015) from UCT. The latter was awarded with distinction. He will make his Italian debut this year at 3 Gala concerts featuring music from Il Barbiere di Seviglia and La Cenerentola with the Giuseppe Verdi Orchestra in Milan Italy on the 15th, 17th and 19th June 2016. “We will be honoring my master Gioacchino Rossini I will be joined on stage by two other great artists mezzo - Soprano Chiara Amaru, Baritone Alberto Gazale and the music director Jader Bignamini. I'm looking so forward to this,” says an excited Sekgapane.