The Cape Town Opera Youth Development and Education STUDIO FOUNDATION celebrates its first anniversary

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Glamor is undeniably a salient feature of opera: soaring voices, sparkling costumes, striking sets. This form of performing arts is a beautiful amalgamation of theatre, singing and music.

This dazzling exterior, however, too easily blinds the collective effort necessary for its genesis – the effort, patience, frustration, heartache and commitment that can lift raw, untrained talent from poverty to stardom. .

This is where Cape Town Opera’s Youth Development and Education Department (YDE) ​​has a central role to play in laying the foundation for a successful career in music and singing, ‘foundation’ being the key word.

Skilfully directed by Madré Loubser, the YDE Foundation Studio is celebrating its first anniversary today. In August 2021, this enterprising young head of the YDE department launched an expansion of the YDE portfolio to create new opportunities for the next generation of South African singers. With funding from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Government of the Western Cape, the YDE Foundation Studio was born with two learners. This year, there are seven participants in the program and by November 2022, auditions for next year’s admission will be well underway, if not complete. To expand the program in 2022 and give more learners the opportunity, Cape Town Opera was fortunate to secure funding from the City of Cape Town and Silversea Cruises.

Loubser explains that the additional training offered by this program helps vocally gifted high school students between the ages of 14 and 18 achieve a healthy transition from childhood to adulthood. She further states that the Foundation Studio helps to teach and develop vocal technique for young voices in a healthy way, especially since some may undergo changes. “It’s a tough time for them, especially the boys, as their voice breaks; we’re also helping them sort through their technique and boost their confidence.”

A feature of this extended version of the original YDE curriculum is the inclusion of music theory, keyboard studies and auditory training courses, none of which are currently available to learners attending underfunded schools in deprived areas. As Lesley Liddle, who leads business development at Cape Town Opera, points out, “Exceptionally gifted young people…do not have access to formal music lessons due to circumstances beyond their control. This puts them at a disadvantage. immediately when they apply to a tertiary institution to study music. The Cape Town Opera Foundation Studio aims to give high school learners with no musical background the skill to enroll in a music course in college, bridging the gap between them and music learners, and enabling them to successfully obtain a scholarship.”

If results are any measure of success, this exciting initiative by Cape Town Opera is already bearing impressive fruit; for example, 19-year-old tenor Iviwe Boms is now studying at the University of Cape Town, where his natural talent – honed by just 5 months of training at Foundation Studio – has enabled him to study for a degree in music. opera at the University of Cape Town Opera School. He is now halfway through his freshman year.

As for this year’s intake, progress reports on two 11th grade interns Lilitha Nekhwevha and Siphosethu Makalima from their teachers confirm the continued success of the program, both are thriving. Both learners attend Fezeka Secondary School in Gugulethu.

According to Adrie van der Dussen, who teaches music theory, keyboard studies and auditory training “Lilitha and Siphosethu are by far the most conscientious students, and although they are in 11th grade, their homework is always finished at beyond expectations”. She describes the two interns as “brilliant minds who love to learn”.

Singing teacher Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi finds Lilitha “a very musical and intelligent young musician. Very comfortable singing and confident. Siphosethu has a very soft high register, very shy, but once she gets something and you make her aware, she gains confidence and sings very well”.

The two students rely on the tonic sol-fa (pedagogical technique for teaching sight singing), to read music currently, but apply themselves to learning music quickly.

Loubser insists on the need for education in the mother tongue when it comes to apprehending musical culture. “It is essential that learners are trained by a professional who speaks the same language”. Thus, Sipho Qabitole assists in all classes and is there to translate (if needed), also serving as a nanny for the learners.

Vocal lessons are taught at Fezeka Secondary School in Gugulethu and Harry Gwala Secondary School in Khayelitsha, while music theory, keyboard studies and ear training lessons are taught at the Artscape Theater Centre.

Thanks to the insightful and compassionate projects undertaken at Cape Town Opera, one can be excited about the quality and future of vocal music in this country. Regarding the need for such continuity, Cape Town Opera calls on those who are excited about the Foundation Studio’s aspirations and achievements to date to join existing sponsors in supporting This program. If they accept the invitation, they can contact Lesley Liddle, Head of Business Development at Cape Town Opera, at lesleyl@capetownopera.co.za.

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