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Operalia arrives in Cape Town

Placido Domingo in Cape Town to launch Operalia, the world’s foremost opera competition, on at Artscape October 30 – November 5

Placido Domingo, the iconic Spanish tenor and conductor, was guest of honour at a media conference at Artscape to launch the 30th edition of Operalia.  With Rolex as presenting sponsor and the City of Cape Town, Southern Sun, and Duet Endowment Trust the main local sponsors, the competition began October 30th, 15h00.

The first quarter-final, in which half the successful competing 34 contestants will sing arias accompanied by piano, to a panel of casting directors and opera luminaries from all over the world commenced October 30th.  The popularity of opera in South Africa means that few of the tickets to watch the quarter finals and semi-finals on October 30, 31 and November 1 are still available, while there are still some seats left for the final round which takes place on Sunday 5 November with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.

Domingo and the Operalia team were officially welcomed to the City at a press conference held at Artscape where the competition will take place, by Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis

Alvaro Domingo, vice president of Operalia who is also in Cape Town to oversee the proceedings, says that, certainly, a very important drawcard is that five of the 34 successful applicants from a total of 800, are from South Africa and all studied at Opera UCT in Cape Town.

All five, also have links to Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) and Cape Town Opera (CTO), two of the hosts of the competition along with Artscape. They are Nombulelo Yende (soprano), Siphokazi Molteno (mezzo soprano), Luvo Maranti (tenor), Thando Mjandana (tenor) and Sakhiwe Mkosana (baritone).

Alvaro Domingo notes the rationale for staging this prestigious event in Cape Town: “In making the decision where to host the 30th anniversary competition, we took into account that South Africa  has an international reputation for the quality of its singers such as previous Operalia winners Pretty Yende and Levy Sekgapane,  the reputation and  quality of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra,   the body of work of Cape Town Opera, and the versatility of the venue within the Artscape Theatre Centre, plus, needless to say, the inherent beauty of the city of Cape Town, of course.

“When we discussed the details with the CPO’s CEO Louis Heyneman, we got his buy-in immediately since he sensed how important a distinguished competition such as Operalia, the foremost such competition in the world, would be to reinforce the city as an international cultural force.”

For Heyneman, there was no discussion. “We knew we could offer what Operalia needs and in our case, a first-class orchestra, one of the main reasons we were involved in the first place.  Several meetings later and a year down the line, the Operalia team is finally here. The last week has been a frenetic round of activity in which all logistics came together – local transport and catering for more than 50 people almost around the clock and, liaising with the media who have been very supportive of this incredible journey which will catapult more singers to international stardom.”

Alex Gabriel, the CEO of Cape Town Opera, agrees. “Cape Town Opera is immensely proud to be a partner of Operalia in Cape Town, one of the most prestigious opera competitions worldwide. Hosting this event shines a spotlight on our beautiful city and country, as well as the art form that Cape Town Opera is dedicated to showcasing. Moreover, it will once again illustrate the remarkable talent of our South African opera singers, who are taking the world by storm.”

For the CEO of Artscape Marlene le Roux, “it is an honour that Artscape is the host venue. Opera is now very popular in our historically disadvantaged communities and we have seen South African opera stars from those backgrounds rise to world fame.  Artscape has, at its ethos, the ongoing inclusive transformation of our country and we are delighted that five South Africans have been selected.  International cultural exchange is also paramount, and it is heartening to see the contestants from diverse countries competing side by side. Toi toi toi all!”

On hearing that Operalia was headed to the City, Geordin Hill-Lewis, executive mayor of Cape Town, was also quick to come on board, saying in September that Cape Town is the perfect destination thanks to its accent on culture and its gorgeous location. “We look forward to welcoming the organizers, candidates and international visitors who have already made arrangements to come to Cape Town and thank Rolex and Operalia for their understanding of the fact that we can stage this foremost opera event with panache and efficiency.”

Southern Sun is assisting with reduced accommodation costs for the contingent of contestants, jurors, coaches and two conductors – Placido Domingo and Kamal Khan – and The Duet Endowment Trust, which is fundamental to the survival of opera and orchestra in the city, is one of the major sponsors. Lady Linda Davies of the KT Wong Foundation has made it possible for 120 students to attend aspects of the competition.

The successful contestants come from 15 countries including South Africa, the US, UK, Germany, France, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Israel, South Korea, Malta, Russia, and the Ukraine; the jurors are mainly leading casting directors of opera houses in Europe and the US, as well as CTO’s artistic director Magdalene Minnaar. All three coaches are from abroad.

The competition was founded in 1993 and has helped establish the careers of many singers like Yende, Sekgapane and Metropolitan Opera star Sonya Yoncheva.

Each year Operalia is hosted in a different city and this year Cape Town joins the world’s cultural capitals such as London, Paris, Madrid, Hamburg, Tokyo, and Milan as a host city.

The competition, with total prize money of more than $200 000, presents the perfect platform to promote Cape Town as a tourist and cultural destination.  The hosts provide the orchestra, the venue, logistical support, and accommodation and catering for the competitors, jurors, and a small administrative team.

Ticket details:
Booking for the preliminary rounds and finals is through Artscape Dial A Seat 021 4217695,  on the Computicket website here and at Computicket outlets.
There are two quarter finals on October 30 and 31 at 15:00 and 14:00 respectively and the semi-finals on November 1 at 16:00 are R400, but may be sold out. A limited number of tickets is available for the final round on November 5 at R1500.
The award ceremony takes place immediately after the judges’ deliberations when the final candidate has sung.
The final round of the competition will be livestreamed by free of charge; the semi-finals will be streamed on the Operalia Facebook page.


South Africa’s five finalists:

Sakhiwe Mkosana (baritone)


Siphokazi Molteno (mezzo soprano)


Nombulelo Yende (soprano)


Luvo Maranti (tenor)


Thando Mjandana (tenor)



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