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Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Out and about on Durban’s music front. (Report by William Charlton-Perkins)

Durban may be the country’s Cinderella city when it comes keeping the flag of Opera flying. But there are signs of change. The news that Renée Fleming, the opera world’s Diva Assoluta, will be gracing our City Hall stage with her presence on August 27, courtesy of the KZNPO, represents the biggest coup pulled off on this country’s classical music front in decades.

Accolades are due to the orchestra’s CEO, Bongani Tembe, for securing this great artist’s commitment – at the height of her international career - to tour South Africa with our orchestra. Local enthusiasts are advised to book fast when tickets go on sale for this once-off event (June 1) at Computicket. News is out that fans from other centres will be flying into the city to catch La Fleming live at each of her three concerts, here, in Pretoria and Cape Town. Watch this column for regular updates about the Fleming tour.

On the evidence of two delightful evenings spent recently at UKZN’s Jubilee Centre, standards are on the artistic ascendant at the university’s Opera School and Choral Academy. Under the deft direction of Lionel Mkhwanazi and Bronwen Forbay, Osca’s students treated two packed houses to engagingly rendered ensembles from Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni, as well as a juicy slice of Donizetti’s charming rustic comedy, L’elisir d’amore.

With the benefit of Forbay’s and Mkhwanazi’s professional acumen, not to mention the formidably skilled accompaniment of pianist Andrew Warburton, a line-up of young artists-in-the-making showed their metal to loud and richly deserved encouragement from their audience, not least this writer. Stand-out performances came from tenors Kwazi Makhanya and Lukhanyo Moyake, sopranos Nosipo Ntuli, Neliwsa Katamzi and Wendy Moshutli, mezzo Ntokozo Mhlongo, and baritones Edward Phiri, Andile Mkhabela and Nthando Ngcongo, among others.

And more good news comes from Ster Kinekor’s Ryan Waters, with the assurance that we can look forward to more HD transmissions from the Metropolitan Opera at Cinema Nouveau in a few months, once its line-up for the Met’s 2009/2010 season hits our shores.

Friends of Music’s next recital at Durban’s Jewish Centre is on June 9 at 19h45. Flautist Liesl Stoltz, pianist Albie van Schalkwyk and cellist Anmari van der Westhuizen will perform music by Weber, Martinu, Prokofiev and Debussy. Book at Computicket. Safe parking is available.

Finally a reminder US conductor Leslie B Dunner is back in town on June 11 for the first of the two concerts. His programme showcases Haydn’s Surprise Symphony No 94; Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2 (soloist Boris Giltburg) and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8. More Haydn opens the Dunner’s June 18 concert, with a performance of his Symphony no 81. Juilliard graduate Bryan Wallick, a gold medallist of the Vladimir Horowitz International Piano Competition, debuts with the KZNPO playing Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 in the second half of the programme.