A great loss for music

2018-11-30 16:30
Sally Silver.

Sally Silver.

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A dynamo, a graceful whirlwind of giddy energy, empathy, musicality and laughter.

That’s how Pietermaritzburg soprano Sally Silver, nee Stokoe , was described by KickStArt Theatre Company’s Steven Stead.

The 50-year-old Pietermaritzburg-born opera star died on Wednesday. She was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in the middle of 2017.

Silver fulfilled a life-long dream in February 2014 when she performed in the KZN Philharmonic’s Viennese Nights concert.

In an interview with The Witness at the time she said: “I am over the moon to be making my solo debut in my hometown. I performed in the Messiah chorus there many years ago but singing as an international soprano will be very emotional for me.”

Silver’s musical life started when she was a pupil at GHS. She performed with the then Natal Youth Choir and in all her school productions.

Her first professional production was Puccini’s one-act comic opera Gianni Schicchi, at the Playhouse in Durban in 1990. She also performed with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic in a number of Philharmonic Rock concerts, and sang with the then Natal Performing Arts Council (Napac) Chorus and in the Opera Studio at the Playhouse as a student at the Natal Technikon (now Durban University of Technology).

After moving overseas in 1998, her career took flight. She toured with the English Touring Opera and sang with the English National Opera, the Scottish Opera, Metz, Moscow and Nederlandse Reisopera. She also performed regularly with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, and BBC Symphony Orchestra.

In recent years, Silver sang the role of Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore with the Chelsea Opera and performed the Verdi Requiem in Oxford and the role of Susanna in the Russian premiere of Orango by Shostakovich.

Silver also won the Opera South Africa Prize and an FNB Vita award.

Paying tribute to her, Stead, who first met Silver when he was part of the chorus of La Boheme at the Playhouse in Durban, said she was “massively talented, vivacious and generous”, adding that Silver “was taken from us way before her time”.

“She has been a dear friend since I met her at the age of 15 ... and she tried to give me singing lessons by belting out O mio babbino caro in her flat opposite the theatre. We were both very young!”

Maritzburg concert pianist Christopher Duigan has also expressed his deep sadness at Silver’s death.

Duigan said: “It’s a sad loss for music. I knew Sally from our days at Pelham ... We first performed together in a number from Cabaret in a variety show at Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High.

“I think I was very aware, even then, that she exuded an extraordinarily powerful and committed stage presence, truly absorbing the character of the music on stage.”

Durban-based classical music writer William Charlton-Perkins said Silver’s death was a tremendous loss to those who were blessed know such a “warm and effervescent person”.

He added: “As her legions of fans will testify, her generosity of spirit came through in her singing, always a special experience as that beautiful, silvery soprano of hers was instantly recognisable.”

Silver leaves her husband, the conductor Jeremy Silver, and a daughter, Charlotte.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  tribute
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