Robert Brooks/ Gisela de Villiers
Good news from Dusseldorf – all four singers we supported made it to the semi-finals of the 2014 International Belvedere Singing Competition, following in the footsteps of Pretty Yende as well as Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi and Tsepho Moagi, who have both sung for the Society in opera and/or concert.
This is no mean achievement for Siyabulela Ntlale, Linda Nteleza, Khanyiso Gwenxane and Owen Metsileng when you consider there were more than 1300 entrants and only 17 semi-finalists but the crowning glory goes to Siya. He took second place with a cash prize, and prizes of offers to sing at Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf – Duisburg role and the Theatre in Erfurt as well as the Kirsten Flagstaff Festival prize to sing in Norway. He also won the Olga Warla Kolo Prize of € 500.
Siya, our wonderful Mamma in Viva la Mamma in 2012 and a singer in the Wagner Society’s gala concert with the CPO and the Verdi Society last year, has a wonderful career ahead of him and we wish him well. He will be appearing for the Society in February.
2012 Spring Tour, organized by InBerlin Reisen, was a spectacular success.
The tour began in Dresen, where Tte splendour of the architecture impressed even those who had been before. The group took advantage of the fact that Frauenkirche, the huge castle, the baroque cathedral, the Brühl balcony upon the river Elbe and the Semper opera were all in walking distance.
This report from Herbert Glöckner:
Our first opera, Salome, was in the mighty and impressively beautiful Semper Oper with the Staatskapelle Dresden, certainly one of the finest opera orchestras I know. Add to this the incredible acoustics of the opera house and a strong cast of singers where everybody met the highest standards and we were overwhelmed by this opera as never before.
The next day we went to the lovely city of Meissen with its famous porcelain manufacture, elegant gothic cathedral, a castle of course and, in the evening, again to a performance at the Semper opera, this time Donizettis L’elisir d’amore. If we had expected a little light funny bit of schmaltz we were taught a lesson: fun it was, even great fun but an inspired masterpiece, colourful and with delicate filigree and the singing was of untainted beauty, without exception. During “Una furtiva lagrima,” nobody dared breathe. It was perfect and blissful bel canto.
In Dresden, we went to see the fabulous Green Vault of Augustus the Strong with its unmatched treasures.
Then we drove to Berlin, where we saw or heard rather, as it was a concert performance, Tannhäuser at the Philharmonie. This was most likely the best Tannhäuser all members of the RWS present had ever heard. A concert version lends itself ideally for Wagner operas; the orchestral part appears especially transparent. About the singers of this evening we all could only rave: Nina Stemme as Elisabeth, Marina Prudenskaja as Venus, Robert Dean Smith sang Tannhäuser for the diseased Torsten Kerl and, a special highlight, Christian Gerhaher was Wolfram von Eschenbach. Marek Janowski, who is well known as Wagner conductor, added further glory. All participants of this trip agreed in rare consensus that the operas we have seen so far were musically simply overwhelmingly fabulous and unforgettable.
The trip ended with a terrific firework performance of Verdi’s 6th opera: I due Foscari and endless jubilant applause. The music of this opera is forceful, colourful and demanding and Ramón Vargas sang the challenging role of the young Foscari with a facility which allowed the audience the concentration on the music without having to fear any problem with high notes. The long lasting standing ovation at the end was fully deserved.
The day had begun with a trip to Potsdam and the palace of Sans Souci where the group admired y the splendour of the park and the Rococo palace.
This was followed by something none of us had ever seen and which is, one does not really understand why, rather neglected in the opera repertoire: The Bronze Horse by Daniel François Esprit Auber. This is a very comical comic opera with charming bel canto music which nonetheless makes high demands on the singers, especially the sopranos. The cast was fully up to it and we left the opera house a bit surprised as we got more than expected and in high spirits thanks to the enchanting music.
We also attended a concert with baroque music in the Chamber Music Hall. This concert was highlight. It left a very strong impression on the group and was much loved, thanks to Xavier de Maistre, the uncontested best harpist, who played with unheard virtuosity and produced sounds on the harp never imagined.
Another great and most enjoyed surprise was a performance of the Young State Opera of Shostakovich’s opera Moskau Tscherjomuschki with a huge number of young singers who all sang with competence, enthusiasm and excellent, cultivated voices.
Then came a concert, in the big hall of the Philharmonic. Vladimir Ashkenazy conducted a program with Berlioz, Liszt’s 2nd piano concerto and Shostakovich 10th symphony. A change of mood came with a production of the ballet, Eugene Onegin, choreographed by the South African John Cranko, who was acclaimed worldwide, with a live orchestra in the pit, of course. It was danced with an elegance and effortlessness one does not see very often and the leaps of the dancers made one wonder if they had rubber legs.
The Deutsche Oper was the venue for the 129th performance of The Marriage of Figaro, a Götz Friedrich production from 1978. The production is still as fresh as it was when it opened.
There’s no doubt the participants enjoyed this trip very much; they commended the RWS for the excellent choice and interesting variety of the program, and were happy with the arrangements made by Stephan Duerre and his agency IN BERLIN REISEN. Most asked about plans for 2013.
January 18, 2012
With Viva la Mamma, the Richard Wagner Society’s new opera in rehearsal for its three performances in February, news that the Society’s previous production, The Flying Dutchman, reaped three nominations in the KykNet Fiesta awards for 2011 is exhilarating.
The Flying Dutchman, which was directed by Lara Bye, won nominations for best production, best design (Craig Leo) and best performance in the classical music milieu (soprano Nkosazana Dimande). The winners will be announced on February 23.
Herbert Gloeckner, president of the Richard Wagner Society of South Africa, says that the Society is thrilled to be honoured.
“Last year was our third appearance in the Suidoosterfees, and this is a triumph for us. Our cast and crew worked so hard on a small budget to achieve a miracle, acknowledged as such by many members of the media and the 4000 people who went to the show.
“It’s good that our small Society, which is committed to encouraging talented young musicians embarking on a career, is part of the greater arts community of South Africa. We are blessed with wonderful voices and great actors and the two come together very well on the operatic stage.”
As part of this commitment, the Wagner Society is presenting nine young singers in Donizetti’s farce, Viva la Mamma, It will take place on February 16, 18 and 19 at different times at the KykNet Theatre in Artscape, with tickets from R100 at Computicket. “
Lara Bye, director of Viva la Mamma, has won the prestigious Rapport Skouerklop Award for her contribution to the arts at the Suidoosterfees. The award was presented at the close of the festival at Artscape last night.
Bye has been involved with the Suidoosterfees for four years, directing operas for the Richard Wagner Society of South Africa.
Bye had audiences glued to their seats in 2008 with the first one, Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona, which was set in a boxing ring.
Says Barnard Beukman, CEO of Rapport, “She followed this up with the comic Rossini opera, La Scala di Seta, which had festival goers cramming the stairs to get seats. Last year, she tackled Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer. Never before has an opera of such scope been presented by an arts festival. It brought scores of opera lovers from abroad, and earned her accolades in Opernwelt, the leading German opera magazine foe her innovative, modern and accessible direction. The opera has earned three Fiesta nominations.
“The 2012 production, Viva la Mamma, was an African premiere of Donizetti’s opera.
“Once again she stretched the comical to the point where people almost laughed non-stop, creating an irresistible festival experience for both opera virgins and connoisseurs, “ he said.
Bye hold an honours degree in drama from the University of Cape Town, as well as a diploma from the Jacques le Coq Mime and Movement School in Paris. An actress and director who works in both English and Afrikaans drama, Bye’s most recent work, Night Mother/Nag Moeder was performed in English at the Grahamstown Festival and in Afrikaans at Aardklop.
In 2000, Bye was named one of the 40 most inspirational South African women by Fair Lady.
Other winners of the Rapport Trophy include David Kramer and Adam Small.
Donizetti must be smiling at the way his opera, Le Convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali, also known as ‘Viva la Mamma’ is turning out. This opera, which was performed the first time in Italy in 1827, has been through several incarnations and this one takes it to a new level of fun, laughter, brilliant singing and acting. It’s an all-round theatrical experience and you have three chances to enjoy it at the Suidoosterfees at Artscape on February 16, 18 and 19.