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Sunday, April 21, 2019


Lovers of opera and jazz music treated to an excellent concert which was greeted with delight from a highly enthusiastic audience. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Last Sunday, April 14, 2019, lovers of opera and jazz music were treated to an excellent concert which was greeted with delight from a highly enthusiastic audience.

Luthando Qave, Reuben Mbonambi,Sibabalwe Yoko & Khayakazi Madlala
Taking place at the Durban Jewish Centre, Durban Opera Potpourri was born of a project initiated by Friends of Music and iGrandi Tenori, a fast-growing group of tenors headed by Kwazi Mhlongo.

“South Africans have invaded the classical music sphere beyond imagination with apparent international achievement. However, we are still faced with the realism of fund-less craft. Our universities are flooding with aspiring young practitioners who upon graduating enter a non-existing industry. Due to the tremendous deterioration of reserves that help sustain this area of interest, artists are seeking sustainability in European countries,” says Kwazi Mhlongo, director of iGrandi Tenori.

Phindile Cele; Owen Metsileng; Sbani Mwelase & Kananelo Sehau

(Owen Boikhutso Metsileng, who is based in Belgium, will be representing South Africa at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2019)

Several opera companies in South Africa have had to close down due to financial hindrances and others are facing an uncertain future.

“It is through initiatives like Durban Opera Potpourri that we seek to create a market for all professionals in the field of classical music, within the parameters of eThekwini and beyond. Our towering wish is for opera artists and graduates to be created a market where they can operate and contribute to the economy of the country without having to cross borders. We also wish to expand the financial support base for opera artists who continue to raise the South African flag to even greater heights in international singing competitions,” adds Mhlongo.

Mlindi Pato; Sibongile Mthiyane; Dorh Mfayela;& S'bongile Mntambo

The impressive line-up featured Luthando Qave (baritone); Reuben Mbonambi (bass); Sibabalwe Yoko (tenor); Khayakazi Madlala (soprano); Phindile Cele (mezzo-soprano); Owen Metsileng (tenor); Sbani Mwelase (baritone); Kananelo Sehau (tenor); Mlindi Pato (tenor); Sibongile Mthiyane (mezzo-soprano); Dorh Mfayela (soprano), and S'bongile Mntambo (soprano).

There were three parts to the programme – the first and third devoted to opera and the second section featured the inimitable Melvin Peters and his quartet. Included in the pieces they played was a work written by Peters himself and, in keeping with the opera focus of the concert, a re-made version of Bach’s Air on a G String.

Mhlongo continues: “Part of our main objective is to eradicate the wall of dichotomy between classical music and other genres, to foster collaboration, specifically with complementing genres like jazz music, to promote the love of opera music, and to inevitably defeat the loose-ends that oppose the survival of classical music in the country.”

Highlights for me were Luthando Qave’s powerful Prologue from Pagliacci; Kananelo Sehau’s dramatic Forse la soglia from Un ballo in maschera; Sbani Mwelase’s emotional Or dove fuggo lo mai from I Puritani; and Deserto sulla terra from Il Trovatore by Phindile Cele, Luthando Qave and Kananelo Sehau.

Professor David Smith provided his usual excellent and sympathetic piano accompaniment to the opera sections. The production director was Sanele Mkhize.

Congratulations on an excellent concert to all stakeholders; Ikusasa LeAfrika Foundation, Friends of Music, Jazz Xpression, CingPro, the KZN Department of Arts & Culture, Diemersfontein, and the eThekwini Municipality.

I sincerely this hope this won’t be the last time Durban sees a concert of this high quality of operatic music. – Caroline Smart