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Tuesday, February 14, 2012


(Pic by Suzy Bernstein)

Kelebogile (Pearl) Boikanyo’s (24) rise in the South African opera world has been nothing short of remarkable. This year, she hits another high note with winning the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music 2012.

“This award means a lot to me, obviously because I am young and I am excited to be recognised in my own country. I love what I do and, it also keeps me on the right track,” said Boikanyo. “I am confident that with enough hard work, I will have a bright future. When I am on stage, it is because I love what I do and I do it with passion. I do not expecting any recognition, but this award tells me that people realise and appreciate good arts.”

Boikanyo was born in 1987, in Pretoria. She attended Hebron technical and commercial high school, where she graduated at the age of 16 and gained entry into Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria with a scholarship to study a BA in Performing Vocal Arts.

This young soprano made her professional singing debut with the international South African superstar, tenor Johan Botha, in Opera Africa's Opera Extravaganza in 2007, while still a vocal arts student at the Tswane University of Technology. In 2008 she dazzled as the High Priestess in Verdi's Aïda, and made her international debut as Queen Silomo in the Zulu opera Princess Magogo at Oslo's Den Norske Opera, before playing Echo in Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Royal Opera de Wallonie in Liège, Belgium.

Boikanyo said that her “defining moment”, where she knew that singing was what she wanted to do with her life, happened in 2004 when she won the national soloist competition at the Tirisano School's Choral Eisteddfod competition for the third year in a row. “It was my last year for this competition and after winning it, I just wanted to sing, although I never knew what it entailed,” she added. Aged 15, she was the first student from the North West Province to win this prize, and it also marked the first time in the history of this competition for the North West to win. In 2006, the same year when she won her first SAGMA competition, she also won the South African Student Price Competition for all Opera Schools in the Country.

In 2010, she excelled as Musetta in Opera Africa's La Bohème and as a soloist in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the JPO. Since then she's received accolades for singing the finale of Mahler's Fourth Symphony with the JPO as well as her portrayal of Micaëla in Opera Africa's production of Bizet's Carmen and Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro earlier this year. As part of the OA/JPO collaboration, she was heard again in the soprano solos in the orchestra's performances of Mozart's Great C Minor Mass in October, 2011.

“The year (2011) has been a great year and I am proud to be a winner, not only in my professional life but also as an individual. The future is bright and I will keep working harder to fulfil my goals. I look forward to working together with Standard Bank and I can’t wait for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown,” said Boikanyo.

“I have heard Kelebogile in several productions recently and she has been the star of the show,” said conductor Richard Cock, National Arts Festival committee member for Music. “She has a wonderfully clear, strong voice which, combined with her fine acting ability, puts her on a par with international artists and makes her a worthy recipient of the SBYAA. I really look forward to her concerts in Grahamstown.”

Boikanyo is a member of the Opera Africa Studio and has been appointed as an Opera Africa Associated Artist from 2012. She is sponsored by the Maponya Group.

“As a young artist, it does not matter what field you are in. If you give the best at what you do and put in all your effort, good things will happen. Your work will give other people joy,” said Boikanyo.

The Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival to acknowledge emerging, relatively young South African artists who have displayed an outstanding talent in their artistic endeavours. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in different disciplines, affording them national exposure and acclaim. Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and presented Young Artist Awards in all the major arts disciplines over their 28-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards. The winners feature on the main programme of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown and receive financial support for their Festival participation, as well as a cash prize.

The 2012 National Arts Festival runs from June 28 to July 8 in Grahamstown. For more information, click on the banner advert at the top of this page which links to the NAF site.