Soprano Launches World Cup in Trafalgar SquareDate: 11 June 2010
South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza kicked off the London celebrations for the FIFA World Cup in Trafalgar Square alongside Mayor Boris Johnson. She sang the South African national anthem followed by “Ebben ne andrò lontana” from Catalani’ “La Wally” on the open stage in Trafalgar Square, before the televised relay of the tournament began on the big screen.
Matshikiza will take the lead role in Classical Opera Company’s new completion of Mozart’s unfinished opera Zaide at Sadler’s Wells on 24 and 26 June, followed by a UK tour. The soprano, whose voice has taken her from an impoverished township in Cape Town to the stage of the Royal Opera House, will perform in the production by acclaimed director Melly Still, nominated for 6 Tony and 4 Olivier awards for directing Coram Boy at the National Theatre.
Mozart’s incomplete opera is a tale of imprisonment, abuse of power and misplaced love. Zaide is a political prisoner who is being held at the whim of a tyrant. In the new ending, devised by Ian Page and writers Michael Symmons-Roberts and Ben Power, the conflict is resolved in compassion and forgiveness.
It is a story which resonates with the singer’s own experiences of growing up in a country ravaged by apartheid. She witnessed the protests and momentous events, which led to the first free democratic elections in South Africa following Mandela’s release from prison.
“I discovered opera listening to the radio in South Africa," says Matshikiza. “Mozart’s operas are so beautiful, because so often they end with a vision of forgiveness. Forgiveness gives closure, it’s a cleansing of the heart. Without forgiveness, you can’t go forward. We have all had to wrestle with this and accept truth and reconciliation in South Africa – it gives our country hope of envisioning an equal society.”
As a child growing up in one of South Africa’s poorest townships, Pumeza sang in choirs at her primary and secondary schools, often taking solo parts as her voice matured. She studied at the South African College of Music graduating ‘cum laude’ for the Performers Diploma in Music. She became a member of Cape Town Opera studio and was also voted Best Performer of the year in 2003 by the Friends of Cape Town Opera.
She went on to join the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House which she recently graduated from. She made her Royal Opera House debut as a Flowermaiden in Parsifal and has since appeared for the company as Tebaldo (Don Carlos), Witch (Dido & Aeneas) and Sandman (Hansel und Gretel).
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