By Edward Tsumele 

Any classical music fan of note in Mzansi must have heard about Pumeza Matshikiza and her legendary musical exploits in faraway lands, where she has an incredible following as an opera singer.

Several such fans must be craving for that one day when they will watch one of the country’s most prominent musical talents in action back home.

Unfortunately, such talent, especially in the classical music genre, are far and few in-between in this country. But that does not mean Mzansi has not produced such high art. Fact of the matter is that they are mainly based overseas, where they get an opportunity to work and earn a living. For a long time, way back before the complications introduced into the performance scene by the current restrictions as a result of Covid-19, classical musicians struggled to get opportunities to perform on stage in Mzansi.

If there is any music genre that seems to continuously elude sponsorship or funding to a large extent, it is classical music. 

I am talking about both public and corporate sponsorship, a pity though because this music genre tends to attract the moneyed, and may I add, the cultured lot. We are not even talking about the middle class here, with limited disposable income, but high net individuals with some cash to spare on a classical music ticket. 

This makes one wonder, what seems to elude the necessary sponsorship for such beautiful music?

In short, a lack of opportunities for classical music talent in the country due to indifference by those who control the purse strings for funding and sponsorship, is the reason we do not get to enjoy the performances of such exceptional home talent such as Pumeza’s, who have to entertain others in such places as Milan, Frankfurt, Paris, Los Angeles and London, rather than us back home.

It is against this background and context that many a classical music lover will be excited to know that eventually, Pumeza, the widely travelled soprano is coming back home for two recitals. Yes, two recitals, one in Joburg and the other one in Durban.

The international opera star has confirmed she will be presenting the two solo concerts on 2 November at the Roodepoort Theatre in Joburg and on 7 November at St. Thomas Anglican Church in Durban.

Speaking from Europe, where she is based, Pumeza expressed excitement about the upcoming performances: “I’m looking forward to singing my concert repertoire in South Africa, my home. Durban is my favourite city and Joburg has my heart.”

Asked what her audiences should expect in her first South African performances since 2017, the lyric soprano excitedly shared that she will deliver a repertoire including a selection of opera arias and traditional South African songs that she had performed on global concert stages, including Burg Theater (Vienna), Sala Cecilia Meireles (Rio de Janeiro) and Kirstenbosch Gardens in Europe and the Americas.

Pumeza is signed to Decca Classics and regarded as one of today’s leading opera stars globally. So far, she has released two albums: her debut album Voice of Hope, featuring arias and traditional and popular African songs, and Arias, which features a selection of operatic arias and songs from her current repertoire. From time to time, Pumeza forays into the popular music genre and has shared the stage with international chart-topping acts such as Josh Groban and Rolando Villazon.

The two-night-only concert will be a treat for local music lovers who’ve been deprived of live music because of the pandemic. Pumeza will be accompanied by acclaimed pianist Paul Ferreira.

I am personally looking forward to this concert, especially because like many others who love classical music, I have not had a chance to attend any of her recitals, and get to hear and see, up close and personal, what this opera singer is made of.

But for now, we can only rely on critics’ impression of her overseas. They are full of praise for this homegrown talent.

International reviews on Pumeza Matshikiza:

“With her luscious lyric voice and her superb presence and acting, she will certainly be a star,” says BBC Music Magazine.

“Her voice is smooth, rich, flexible, her manner open and unaffected, her dramatic instinct keen,” says Financial Times.

“Matshikiza sang gorgeously . . . the distinctive beauty of a special voice,” says The Sunday Times.

“Dusky, overtone-rich, abundantly sensuous, the timbre has fullness, freshness and purity alloyed to the darker tones of an almost-Callas like palette,” says Opera Magazine. – 

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