Music is a phenomenon that all conscious individuals are exposed to and can relate to – whether it be laced with lyrical genius or vibrating with bass. Most young people tend to go for the more commercial tunes as it’s easily (and constantly) accessible whereas others prefer the underrated genres. The furthest thought we have when we hear the word ‘music’ is probably opera. Personally, when I hear about opera singers, I imagine stubby old men that look (and sound) like they’re carrying the world in their bellies. This vision has since been transformed after being introduced to the work of young opera singers Levy Sekgapane and Makudupanyane Senaoana .
Warm smiles welcome me to their friendly faces. Immediately, I feel like I can relate to these characters – nothing strange about them. These ordinary guys, however, are the carriers of extraordinary voices. Listening to them sing, I turn into a chicken (with my feathered arm hairs illustrating this). How does someone seemingly average discover a talent so unique? And how much thought goes into the pursuit of a career in the opera industry? Rejecting the commonly-held belief that opera is a dead genre, young people like Sekgapane and Senaoana add new life to the industry. Combining singing with acting with languages, the end result is nothing short of a masterpiece.
These Cape Town residents are taking the world by storm – with Sekgapane having performed in Germany, Canada and England, and Senaoana in America, France, Canada and England.
After obtaining his Bmus Opera at the UCT South African College of Music, 23-year-old Sekgapane decided to complement his existing qualifications and is currently completing his Post-graduate Diploma in Performance. One of his proudest moments was singing for US President, Barack Obama during his visit to South Africa. His future academic plans include a Masters degree and admission to a studio program at one of the world’s top five opera houses. He expresses his dislike for memorizing an entire opera score but admits that working with prestigious singers, conductors and directors makes the process worthwhile.
Sekgapane’s upcoming performances:
8 March: John Stainer’s Crucifixion at the Bishops Chapel Church
9 March: Arvo Part’s Trio at the Young Blood Art Gallery
April: The Easter Festival in Lubeck, Germany
Sekgapane believes that more recognition should be given to opera singers, especially in South Africa as we are the producers of some of the best singers. He urges the youth to watch opera shows to witness how “real and amazing the human voice can be”.
The UCT South African College of Music is the academic home of Senaoana as well, where he specialises in Operatic Studies. Senaoana fondly reminisces on his recent performance alongside Lira in Paarl. He also rightfully boasts about invitations he has received to compete at competitions in Paris and Houston, Texas. March will see the showing of a documentary at the American Documentary Film Festival in which he stars. Even after all his experience, a nerve-wrecking moment was illustrated by a trembling leg when he performed his audience piece at last year’s UCT opera auditions!
He voices his admiration for the art, explaining: “Opera allows you, as an artist, to explore and embody a completely different character. It’s all about the seamless marriage between great acting and flawless, singing”.
Although he enjoys his chosen career, he would consider extending into the other branches within the arts, such as wine-making or even starting his own fashion label.
Senaoana on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MakudupanyaneSenaoana
Sekgapane on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/levy.sekgapane
and Twitter: https://twitter.com/LEVYSEKGAPANE