Opera news: International opera star, Levy Sekgapane returns home for Cape Town Opera’s The Pearl Fishers, May 10-14, 2023

Thrilling news is that South African opera star, Levy Sekgapane is returning to his home country, to sing in Cape Town Opera’s production of George Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers at Artscape, May 10-14, 2023. I saw this production in June 2021, while we subject to lockdown restrictions. Matthew Wild directed and for the May 2023, production, Elisabeth Manduell is directing, using Wild’s original concept which he described as “concert style”. Wild conceptualised the production, without props, with the use of projected imagery by Cape Town artist, Shakil Solanki who draws inspiration from his Hindu upbringing and from classical art and images from the East. [More in interview: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/opera-interview-matthew-wild-talks-about-cape-town-opera-2021-season/] For the May 2023, in addition to Levy Sekgapane, there are changes to the cast. It is a wonderful opportunity to see this innovative production. I loved the concept – stripping back to foreground voice – but within that the company imbues the performances with its signature acting and stage presence. Here is my review from June 2021:  https://thecaperobyn.co.za/opera-review-cape-town-opera-the-pearl-fishers-june-2021/ Read on for more about The Pearl Fishers at Artscape, May 10-14, 2023:


From May 10 to 14, 2023, Cape Town Opera will present George Bizet’s masterful French opera The Pearl Fishers at Artscapewith an all-star cast led by Operalia 2017 winner Levy Sekgapane in his debut as Nadir. 

The highly anticipated season that returns two years after pandemic restrictions prevented the first full run of the production, also features Cape Town Opera Soloist and celebrated tenor Lukhanyo Moyake reprising his role as Nadir, and fellow Cape Town Opera Soloists Conroy Scott and Brittany Smith- recent winners of the Fleur du Cap Theatre Award for ‘Best Male and Best Female Performance in an Opera’ – as Zurga and Leïla respectively. Cape Town Opera’s Judith Neilson Young Artist, Reuben Mbonambi, who placed 3rdin the Belvedere Competition last year takes the role of Nourabad, and the Cape Town Opera Chorus will be directed by company Chorus Master Marvin Kernelle.  The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra will be conducted by maestro Adam Szmidt.  

The Pearl Fishers, a semi-staged production that focuses on a core storyline and Bizet’s glorious music, will once again be directed by Elisabeth Manduell with Matthew Wild’s original concept enhanced by exquisite imagery by celebrated artist Shakil Solanki whose work has been a source of great inspiration for Manduell’s 2023 staging. Solanki’s series of vivid artworks, rendered in his signature blue palettes, encapsulates the depth and turmoil between the opera’s characters, inviting the audience to immerse into a dreamlike world.  “In The Pearl Fishers  we aren’t looking at a stage with traditional sets and props,” explained Manduell, “but rather at a canvas on which we can set the scenes that illuminate onstage personalities and emotions; Matthew has succeeded in elevating the semi-staged concept into a rich and wonderful space to explore.”  Original set and costume design is by Michael Mitchell and lighting design is byFaheem Bardien. 

Bizet’s three act 1863 opera is a tale of passion, betrayal and sacrifice. Originally set in ancient Ceylon, The Pearl Fishers centres around a tragic love triangle between two fishermen, Nadir and Zurga, and their love for the same woman, the priestess Leïla.  Lifelong friends, their brotherly camaraderie and friendship pact is crowned by one of opera’s most well-known and rousing tenor-baritone duets  –  ‘Au fond du temple saint’  – but their rivalry over Leïla who finds herself conflicted by her love and sacred vows, almost tears them apart.  

Bel canto tenor Levy Sekgapane who is based overseas, studied under Kamal Khan and Hanna van Schalkwyk at the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town and is one of South Africa’s great opera success stories. Together with Pretty Yende, he is the only other South African opera singer to have won Plácido Domingo’s prestigious Operalia competition (2017) and his homecoming is hugely anticipated by opera buffs and classical music lovers alike. So far this year he has performed at the Zurich Opera House and further engagements in 2023 include stints in Paris, Vienna and Dresden. After winning first prize at various international singing competitions such as Belvedere, Montserrat Caballé and the above mentioned Operalia, he became very well known on the international opera circuit and he has performed on some of the greatest stages in Europe. To date career highlights include debuts at the Glyndebourne Festival as Conte d’Almavivain Il Barbiere di Siviglia , as Arbace in Idomeneo at Salzburg Festival in 2019 and in Los Angeles as Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola.  Together with Cecilia Bartoli, Plácido Domingo, Rolando Villazón, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo and Edgardo Rocha he sang in a Rossini Gala concert as part of Cecilia Bartoli’s debut at the Wiener Staatsoper.  In 2019, his first solo CD with Rossini arias was released by Prima Classic, recorded with the Munich Radio Orchestra and conducted by Giacomo Sagripanti.

The Pearl Fishers, proudly supported by The Western Cape Government Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, and the National Arts Council is sung in French with English and isiXhosa surtitles. Performances run at the Artscape Theatre from May 10 to 14, 2023 with booking now open through Computicket or 0214217695.

The Pearl Fishers. Cape Town artist, Shakil Solanki’s art work is featured in Cape Town Opera’s The Pearl Fishers. He” draws inspiration from his Hindu upbringing and from classical art and images from the East.” See interview with Matthew Wild, who conceptualized the production. https://thecaperobyn.co.za/opera-interview-matthew-wild-talks-about-cape-town-opera-2021-season/ The May 2023 staging is directed by Elisabeth Manduell, based on Wild’s concept.

✳ Featured image- International opera star, Levy Sekgapane is returning home, to perform in Cape Town Opera’s The Pearl Fishers, May 10-14, 2023. Sponsored content. Images supplied.