Celebrating UCT Opera - Ndiphilela Ukucula: I live to Sing

15 Sep 2015 - 15:45

On Saturday, 29 August 2015, UCT hosted the first South African screening of the Emmy award-winning documentary Ndiphilela Ukucula: I live to Sing at the Baxter Theatre. The documentary, produced by filmmaker Julie Cohen, follows the lives of Linda Nteleza, Makudupanyane Senaoana and Thesele Kemane - three gifted South African singers studying at the UCT Opera School. We are invited into their homes and are shown their journey of discovery as they grow and nurture their operatic talent.

The screening was well received, with the Baxter's Golden Arrow Theatre almost at its full capacity. Guests were visibly moved by the film, which showcased not only the passion and singing ability of the three rising stars, but also the commitment of the UCT Opera School to prepare students for excellence on the world's stage.

In addition to the film, the evening's programme included two live performances. Accompanied by Dr Lisa Engelbrecht, soprano Linda Nteleza enchanted guests with a haunting rendition of Song to the Moon (from the play Rusalka by Antonin Dvorak), while bass-baritone Siyabulela Ntlale blew the audience away with a lively rendition of La Vendetta (Dr Bartolo's aria from Le Nozze di Figaro, by Mozart).

Dr Russell Ally, Executive Director of the Development and Alumni Department, paid a special tribute to the life of donor Claudia Moni Mirotto, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Claudia loved opera and through her efforts helped to establish the Olitalia/Rialto Foods Bursary, of which both Makudupanyane and Thesele were recipients. Siyabulela is the current recipient.

Prof Sakhela Buhlungu, the Dean of Humanities, reminded guests of the history of the UCT Opera School and its long-standing tradition of discovering and nurturing talent. He drew particular attention to the difficulty faced by aspiring opera singers who hail from the townships, where opera is either unheard of, or seen as a luxury for the wealthy and not recognised as a potential career choice.

As Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price explained, over the past decade, the UCT Opera School has received generous funding from the Mellon Foundation. As the "Mellon era" reaches its conclusion, the Foundation has offered a closing grant of R5 million, provided that UCT raises a matching amount over the next three years. Dr Price and his wife, Prof Debora Posel, have themselves made a financial commitment of R100 000 to the challenge grant campaign, and encouraged those in attendance to consider making a gift, as the university's goal is to create an endowment which will ensure the sustainability of the Opera School, enabling it to continue preparing exceptionally talented singers to become global stars.

The University of Cape Town is deeply grateful to all those who attended and supported the event and to those who continue to support the UCT Opera School.