Our “So you want to be…” series aims to help you in the process of choosing a career by featuring a practising professional to tell us what to expect in their field of work. This week we speak to opera singer Themba Maseko (27) from Sebokeng. He started opera singing in grade 10. Today he performs professionally and lectures at the University of Pretoria.
Live SA: Why opera?
Themba: In high school I was part of the school choral programme, Eisteddfod, where I did solo acts. As years went by, they introduced opera. It turned out I was very good at it. But it was with a lot of help from my high school teachers, Mr Sehanka and Mrs Gouws, and singing coaches Mr Zungu and Ms Stapela.
Live SA: Where did you study?
Themba: I studied at Tshwane University of Technology, vocal arts and at the University of Pretoria, doing a masters in music and having stagecraft as a subject made my opera better.
Live SA: Any significant career accomplishments thus far?
Themba: I was part of Winnie: The Opera, the first ever opera production on the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. It took place on the 28th of April 2011. I played legal counsel at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission trial, where I had to ask Winnie Mandela questions about Stompie Seipei. Before this significant accomplishment, I did a couple of tours: in 2008 I went to Norway for three weeks from the production of Princess Magogo (based on the life of Princess Constance Magogo kaDinuzulu (1900 1984), who is a royal legend widely recognised as a singer, composer, musician, teacher, and political activist). In 2009 I went to the United Kingdom for eight months for Porgy and Bess (based on a novel called Porgy). I currently work with Elegant Entertainment. One of their plays I’m part of is called African Anonymous: it’s about top singers masquerading as waiters so playing for their audience is always a great pleasure.
Live SA: How long does it take to prepare for a play?
Themba: It takes two months to prepare for a theatre production, which consists of six shows. As for rehearsals, it takes me a month to memorise the lines and then there’s another month of stepping on stage and rehearsing. You need your stamina for this job, so I go to gym and make sure I eat three healthy meals a day, with a lot of fruits and vegetables every time I’m involved in a play.
Live SA: Why aren’t there many black opera singers?
Themba: Actually, there are many black opera singers; the only problem is the industry is too small to cater for all of them. The government is not fully supporting opera in South Africa; they believe it’s for the Europeans.
Live SA: What’s next for Themba?
Themba: I want to get into business and open an opera academy in South Africa.
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Photo by Abigail Javier