Nombulelo Yende among the chosen 12 competing in the finals at this year’s Operalia

Nombulelo Yende. Picture: Supplied

Nombulelo Yende. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 2, 2023


Operalia is a prestigious international opera competition founded by the world-renowned opera singer Plácido Domingo. Since its inception in 1993, Operalia has played a significant role in the world of opera.

The competition serves as a platform for discovering and promoting young opera talent from diverse backgrounds around the globe.

It’s known for its distinguished panel of judges, which includes leading figures in the opera industry, providing participants with the opportunity to perform in front of and receive feedback from experts.

Operalia's international reach and the chance to network with industry professionals make it a vital stepping stone for upcoming opera singers, opening doors to career opportunities in opera houses and companies worldwide.

With Rolex as the presenting sponsor and the City of Cape Town, Southern Sun and the Duet Endowment Trust as primary local sponsors, Cape Town has had the honour of hosting the 30th edition of Operalia.

The event treated fans to a spectacular line-up featuring some of the finest young opera talent from around the world

In a fiercely contested semi-final round held at the Artscape Theatre on Wednesday, the jury for this year's Operalia competition announced the selection of 12 outstanding singers.

Among them is South Africa's own Nombulelo Yende, who will advance to the final round scheduled for Sunday night, November 5.

Siphokazi Molteno has secured a place as a finalist in the Zarzuela category, a Spanish genre close to the heart of Placido Domingo.

All finalists will have the privilege of performing under the baton of the maestro himself, conducting the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, with guest conductor Kamal Khan providing assistance.

Marking its debut in Africa, this competition is hosted in Cape Town by the highly respected Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra in collaboration with Cape Town Opera and Artscape.

A diverse array of vocal talents will now vie for the honour of winning this internationally renowned competition, which boasts a total prize purse exceeding $200 000 (R3.7 million).

The daunting task of evaluating the contestants rests on a jury comprising opera directors, casting directors, artistic directors, and consultants from renowned opera houses, presided over by Domingo himself.

Starting with 34 participants from 15 countries, selected from over 800 entrants, the competition was narrowed down to 22 for the semi-finals, with three of South Africa's five hopefuls receiving enthusiastic applause from the appreciative audience.

Now, only 12 artists remain, representing a global spectrum of talent:

1. Semyon Antakov, baritone, Russia.

2.Caitlin Gotimer, soprano, US.

3.Navasard Hakobyan, baritone, Armenia.

4.Eugénie Joneau, mezzo-soprano, France.

5.Taehan Kim, baritone, South Korea.

6.Omer Kobiljak, tenor, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

7.Stephano Park, bass, South Korea.

8.Julie Roset, soprano, France.

9.Luke Sutliff, baritone, US.

10.Elena Villalón, soprano, US.

11.Nombulelo Yende, soprano, South Africa.

12.Siphokazi Molteno, mezzo-soprano, South Africa (finalist in the Zarzuela competition).

Joining Molteno in the Zarzuela competition are the following finalists:

Navasard Hakobyan, baritone, Armenia.

Eugénie Joneau, mezzo-soprano, France.

Luke Sutliff, baritone, US.

Elena Villalón, soprano, US.

The award ceremony is scheduled to take place immediately after the judges’ deliberations once the final candidate has performed.

The KT Wong Foundation has made it possible for 120 students to attend the preliminary rounds, providing vital support to encourage the next generation of South African opera singers.

As the African proverb goes, “it takes a village to raise a child”, and special recognition is given to the valuable support from Rola Volvo and a prominent anonymous donor who have been instrumental in making this “World Cup of Opera” a reality.

Each year, Operalia is hosted in a different city, and this year, Cape Town, has joined the ranks of the world’s cultural capitals, such as London, Paris, Madrid, Hamburg, Tokyo, and Milan, in putting opera on the map.

For Capetonians, this event has ignited a passion for the genre, evident in the rapid sale of tickets for all competition rounds.

On Sunday, November 5, the grand gala event will take centre stage as the finalists compete for the Operalia competition award, accompanied by the exceptional world-class Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.

∎ Tickets for the gala are still available and can be purchased from Computicket or the Artscape box office.