Singing friends reunite for Verdi

2015-09-29 06:00
International soprano Mardi Byers will be performing in South Africa for the first time on Saturday 10 October.

International soprano Mardi Byers will be performing in South Africa for the first time on Saturday 10 October.

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American soprano Mardi Byers is on her way to South Africa for the first time to perform Verdi’s Requiem with three local choirs at UCT’s Jameson Hall on Saturday 10 October.

She will share the stage with the Symphony Choir of Cape Town, Vox Humana and the City of Tygerberg Choir.

They will be accompanied by the UCT symphony orchestra and soloists Monika Voysey (mezzo soprano), Given Nkosi (tenor) and George Stevens (baritone) under the baton of Alexander Fokkens.

The concert will take place on what would have been Verdi’s birthday.

Mardi, who is now based in Switzerland, was invited by Heathfield baritone George to be a part of the concert.

The two met while performing Aida overseas.

“What a voice, I thought,” George says, and the two have been friends ever since, taking every opportunity they can to perform together.

Both singers are fans of Verdi’s Requiem.

“It’s one of my favourites to perform as well as listen to,” Mardi says, while George calls it “the requiems of all requiems”.

“From start to finish, because it takes you on a journey,” he says, adding that he’s particularly fond of the “Hostias” sung by the tenor.

Mardi says she knew at the age of three already that she would become an opera singer. Both her parents were opera singers and her father was also a conductor.

“It’s in my blood.”

She made her operatic debut as Floria Tosca in Germany in 2003. Her performance led to invitations from major opera houses around the world.

While hers is a career of many highlights, top of Mardi’s list is performing Mahler’s “8th Symphony” at the First Night of the Proms of the BBC in 2010.

A singing studentGeorge says it’s the neverending learning in his job that draws him to opera.

“Be it new works, contemporary, baroque or romantic.”

He joined the Cape Town Opera Company in 1992 and his debut as Selim in Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia was broadcast live in South Africa.

He studied in Vienna and Munich and honed his skills on South African and European stages before becoming the principal soloist as an Italian baritone of the Theater Bremen in Germany.

While he still performs across South Africa as a baritone and bass baritone, George is busy nurturing a new generation of singers at the South African College of Music at UCT, where he has been a member of the Vocal department and Opera teaching staff since last year.

George enjoys meeting colleagues “famous and otherwise”, travelling and being in demand. He also enjoys being able to communicate with his audience and taking on the challenges that singers face on a modern stage.

Most of all, he enjoys being appreciated.

“I remember arriving in Prague at the airport. After customs looked at my passport and saw my job description, I was treated like royalty, as opera singers in Prague are highly respected. “

The Verdi Requiem at the Jameson Hall at UCT on Saturday next week will start at 20:00. Tickets for the show cost R150 and are available at Compu­ticket.

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