A soprano’s dream comes true

2013-08-13 00:00

BONGIWE Madlala cannot wait to step out on stage with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra (KZNPO) at this year’s FNB Concert in the Park at Maritzburg College on August 18 in Pietermaritzburg.

For her, it is a dream come true.

“I actually get emotional whenever I think about it,” the talented soprano said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, but I didn’t have the contacts to make it happen.

“Then, through Facebook, a friend mentioned Christopher Duigan [the concert organiser]. I did some research and then approached him through Facebook and now my family can watch me sing live in my hometown. It’s going to be an absolute pleasure for me.”

The concert, which is taking place on the Goldstones field, is also giving her the chance to work with respected conductor Richard Cock.

“I did a Viennese style of singing course many years ago, which he was involved with, but I’m not sure he remembers me,” she said. “I was so sick and really struggling to sing, and I was so cross because, of course, I wanted to impress him.”

For the concert, Madlala, who is now based in Pretoria, will be singing arias by Johann Strauss and the magnificent Ebben from La Wally.

Madlala, who grew up in Pelham and went to Russell High School, is one of three siblings. She has a brother, David, and a sister, Phindile.

Throughout her childhood, she sang and was a member of her school choir — but it was her father, Duncan, and her choir mistress, who introduced her to the idea of singing opera. Her mother, Gugu, also played a role, as she often played classical music at home.

After matriculating in 1997, however, Madlala opted not to go down the classical route. Instead, she headed to the then Natal Technikon (now Durban University of Technology) to study jazz.

“Initially, I didn’t want to do something serious, but God had a different plan for me,” Madlala said. “I did two years at Natal Technikon, and then decided it wasn’t for me and enrolled in an opera course at Tshwane [University of Technology (TUT)] because the department specialises in the genre.”

While at TUT, she sang the role of Hanna in Franz Lehár’s Die Lustige Witwe and, in 2001, was one of four singers chosen to sing at the Global Summit Women of the World in Hong Kong.

Madlala was also a member of the respected Black Tie Ensemble (BTE) for many years. During her tenure, she performed as a soloist for Britain’s Prince Edward — the Earl of Wessex — understudied the role of Mimi for Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème, sang the role of Lauretta in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, sang the title role in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly during BTE’s Four Opera Vignettes production and performed in the BTE’s 10th Anniversary Opera Gala.

“Being a member of the Black Tie Ensemble was wonderful,” Madlala said. “I really grew as a singer, got to perform in some operas, and travelled in Europe and other African countries. It was a great experience for a young artist trying to break into the scene.”

Her other credits include: being a soloist in the An die Musiek programme hosted by Mimi Coertse; playing the role of Bess in the Cape Town production of Porgy and Bess, which toured to Germany; and singing the title role in Lehár’s The Merry Widow, the role of Euridice in Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph Willibald Gluck and the role of Mothers of Missing in Winnie the Opera.

In April this year, Madlala was one of the sopranos in Sibongile Mngoma’s 10 South African Sopranos concert at Carnival City and, later this year, she will be performing the title role in Madama Butterfly with Cape Town Opera.

Asked to choose her favourite composer, she said she loves the music of Puccini. “His music is so romantic … it’s beautiful and it just fits so well with my personality. [Richard] Wagner is too heavy for my voice,” Madlala added. — Arts Editor.

THE annual FNB Concert in the Park, which is presented in association with Parklane SuperSpar and the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra with the support of Spar, The Witness and C.P.W. Printers, takes place on Goldstone’s field at Maritzburg College from 11 am to 5 pm on August 18.

The concert, which pays tribute to the school’s 150th anniversary year, gets under way with performances by College old boys, Rory Eliot of Plush and RnB singer Mario Ogle. At noon, the College Vocal Ensemble, former headboys Ryan Hosking and Jesse Filaferro, and guitar virtuoso Luke Wyngaard will be on stage.

The KZNPO, under the baton of Richard Cock, performs at 1 pm. Their programme includes selections from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance and a traditional African medley.

Soloists include Old Collegians Nigel Fish (cello), Anthony Stonier and Dwayne du Toit (vocals), who will do a Frank Sinatra tribute, and Pietermaritzburg-born soprano Bongiwe Madlala.

The second half of the concert sees Eliot and guitarist Carl Wegelin of Plush joining the KZNPO onstage to perform new renditions of Plush songs — before well-known singer Joseph Clarke performs songs by Queen.

After the main concert, Durban-based band Platform Jazz will perform classic jazz numbers like Take Five and Sway. The band will be joined by vocalists Shelley Maclean and Clark.

Concert-goers are invited to take their own food and drinks, chairs and blankets.

Tickets cost R100 (R90 for pensioners, R50 for students and free entry for children under six).

Book at Dulce Coffee Shop at Parklane SuperSpar or phone 033 342 3487. Tickets are also available at Maritzburg College before and on the day.

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