Opera

Summertime (Gershwin): Louise Howlett, Albert Combrink, Charles Lazar (live)

“Summertime”, Louise Howlett (vocals), Albert Combrink (Piano), Charles Lazar (Double Bass) – from the Opera “Porgy & Bess” by George & Ira Gershwin, after the novel by DuBose Heyward. Recorded Live at Alexander Bar, Cape Town. This recording was catalogued in “The Summertime Connection”, a website dedicated to this extraordinary song. Read more about Louise […]

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“Summertime”, Louise Howlett (vocals), Albert Combrink (Piano), Charles Lazar (Double Bass) – from the Opera “Porgy & Bess” by George & Ira Gershwin, after the novel by DuBose Heyward.

Recorded Live at Alexander Bar, Cape Town. This recording was catalogued in “The Summertime Connection”, a website dedicated to this extraordinary song.

Read more about Louise Howlett HERE:
http://www.louisehowlett.com

Read more about Albert Combrink HERE:
http://www.albertcombrink.com

Buy their CD “Night Sessions” HERE:
https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/combrinkhowlett

Follow Albert on Twitter:
@albertcombrink

Read more about the original show HERE:
http://www.albertcombrink.com/2013/05/08/lady-sings-the-blues-at-the-alexander-bar-famous-women-of-jazz-blues/

Visit Alexander Bar’s Website:
http://alexanderbar.co.za/shows-upstairs/

Find Alexander Bar on Twitter:
@AlexanderBarCT

Poster Design: Bryn van Wyk (bryn@brynvanwyk.com)

Find “The Summertime Connection”on FACEBOOK.

More about Gershwin’s song “Summertime”:

An Opera Aria that became a Jazz Standard, Gershwin’s “Summertime” has gained international fame as one of the most recorded songs of all time, with almost 35 ooo known recordings. Gershwin began composing the song/opera aria, for inclusion in his opera Porgy and Bess (America’s first serious “Jazz-Opera” after Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha” ) in December 1933. He attempted to create his own spiritual in the style of the African American folk music of the period. 

Two main sources of inspiration are usually quoted about this song:
1) The Book by DuBose Heyward had been presented as a play, and the spiritual “Sometimes I feel, like a motherless child”) was sung at the end. [Rosenberg, Deena (1991). Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin. Penguin Books USA. ISBN 0-525-93356-5., p. 281]  The opening intervals of  “Summertime” do contain a melodic cell that reminds one of the spiritual.

2) The Ukrainian-Canadian composer and singer Alexis Kochan has suggested that some part of Gershwin’s inspiration may have come from having heard the Ukrainian lullaby, Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon (A Dream Passes By The Windows) at a New York City performance by Oleksander Koshetz‘s Ukrainian National Chorus in 1929 (or 1926). [Helen Smindak DATELINE NEW YORK: Kochan and Kytasty delve deeply into musical past, The Ukrainian Weekly, 24 May 1998]

Gershwin had completed setting DuBose Heyward’s poem to music by February 1934, and spent the next 20 months completing and orchestrating the score of the opera. [Howard Pollack, George Gershwin: his life and work, University of California Press, 2006, p.589]

The song is sung multiple times throughout Porgy and Bess, first by Clara in Act I as a lullaby and soon after as counterpoint to the craps game scene, in Act II in a reprise by Clara, and in Act III by Bess, singing to Clara’s baby. It was recorded for the first time by Abbie Mitchell on 19 July 1935, with George Gershwin playing the piano and conducting the orchestra (on: George Gershwin Conducts Excerpts from Porgy & Bess, Mark 56 667).

Albert Combrink (Piano) (Louise Howlett (Vocalist)

Albert Combrink (Piano) (Louise Howlett (Vocalist)

“Summertime” (George & Ira Gershwin, after the book by DuBose Heyward) LYRICS:

Summertime,
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high

Your daddy’s rich
And your mamma’s good lookin’
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry

One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up singing
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take to the sky

But till that morning
There’s a’nothing can harm you
With daddy and mamma standing by

Summertime,
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high

Your daddy’s rich
And your mamma’s good lookin’
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry

 

Sheet Music for “Summertime” (George & Ira Gershwin, after the book by DuBose Heyward) in A Minor: Vocal Line and Chords (Jazz Fake Book)

Summertime Sheet Music A Minor Jazz Fake Book

Summertime Sheet Music A Minor Jazz Fake Book

Sheet Music for “Summertime” (George & Ira Gershwin, after the book by DuBose Heyward) in D Minor: Instrumental Line and Chords (Colorado Jazz Fake Book)

Summertime Sheet Music D Minor, Colorado Jazz Fake Book

Summertime Sheet Music D Minor, Colorado Jazz Fake Book

Possible inspirations for the song “Summertime” (George & Ira Gershwin, after the book by DuBose Heyward):

~”Oy Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon” is a Ukrainian lullaby. The title is usually translated into English as “The Dream Passes by the Windows”. (Text,Transliteration and Translation uncredited)

Ukrainian Translated into English Transliterated into English
Ой ходить сон, коло вікон.
А дрімота коло плота.
Питається сон дрімоти:
“Де ж ми будем ночувати?”Де хатонька теплесенька,
Де дитина малесенька,
Туди підем ночувати,
І дитинку колисати.Там ми будем спочивати,
І дитинку присипляти:
Спати, спати, соколятко,
Спати, спати, голуб’ятко.
The Dream passes by the window,
And Sleep by the fence.
The Dream asks Sleep:
“Where should we rest tonight?”Where the house is warm,
Where the child is small,
There we will go,
And rock the child to sleep.There we will sleep,
and will rock the child:
Sleep, sleep, my little falcon,
Sleep, sleep, my little dove.
Oy khodyt’ son, kolo vikon.
A drimota kolo plota.
Pytayetsya son drimoty:
De zh my budem nochuvaty?De khaton’ka teplesen’ka,
De dytynka malesen’ka,
Tudy pidem nochuvaty
I dytynku kolysaty.Tam budem spochyvaty,
I dytynku prysypl’yaty:
Spaty, spaty, sokol’yatko,
Spaty, spaty, holubyatko.

~A most haunting, soulful and moving version of the spiritual “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child”, sung by  Odetta. Mournful, haunting vocals, the ethereal choir and Bill Lee’s [Spike's daddy] bass make this unforgettable.

~ And here is “Summertime” is as heard in the original opera, “Porgy and Bess”. Clara is acted by Paula Ingram and sung by Harolyn Blackwell.
The London Philharmonic and The Glyndebourne Chorus are conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

~ And here is “Summertime” given the full Jazz treatment like only Miles Davis could.

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Cape Town Opera’s 2013 production of “Otello” – some personal reflections.

OTELLO – THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE DOWNRIGHT UGLY – a good-natured rebuttal Some interesting debates around the recent “Otello” prompt me to break my rule about “reviewing” friends and colleagues and rivals in the same industry. I was struck by how different the perception of a performance can be. Every one has their […]

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OTELLO – THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE DOWNRIGHT UGLY – a good-natured rebuttal

Some interesting debates around the recent “Otello” prompt me to break my rule about “reviewing” friends and colleagues and rivals in the same industry. I was struck by how different the perception of a performance can be. Every one has their own opinion and that’s the beauty of it, and I for one, love the dialogues that ensue. So, herewith my humble take on the production.

As a performing musician, I no longer go to a performance to encounter it in some “pristine” condition. I do not believe there is some original Otello or Giovanni that has to be encountered. There is no central work of art that has to be reproduced. There is only interpretation. I don’t go to see a great work in a museum, I go to see an interaction between our time and the time of the creation. When I go to see “Otello”, I’m not interested in seeing the same “Otello”. I want to see something that makes me re-think what I thought I knew about the work. Otello is not entertainment. Opera and art is not entertainment. For me these are existential commentaries which are fundamental to my position in the world. Yes, I take it that seriously.

That is why, with some reservations, I feel this production succeeds.

The “Voice of the Nation Ensemble” is simply breathtaking. Power, Volume, drive and drama, they musically stole the show. I can’t find praise enough for the work Albert Horne is doing with them.

Sarah Jane Brandon made her debut in a major Verdi role. I expected to enjoy her voice, but was prepared to see a young and relatively inexperienced Verdian test herself in a major role which would take another decade to reach full maturity. As a debut performance, it blew my socks off. Not many singers can hold an audience for a 20 minute solo scene. My only real problem directing-wise, was all the kneeling on the bed. For the rest, the role is in itself rather one-dimensional. Vocally it is so challenging that it was quite enough for me to have Desdemona sing superbly and present the character-colours in broad strokes.

As for Iago, I was “worried” about George Stevens. I have worked with him in Mozart and couldn’t imagine such a lovely gentleman playing a Verdian Villain. We didn’t get the conventional dark villain. Instead, we got something far more sinister: that Iago we all know. The little old lady who rules the cafeteria, one of the secretaries in the boss’ office – the one who doesn’t pass on your messages, a bank-teller that can look up your balance but just doesn’t have to help you, even one of my fellow-teachers at one of the schools where I taught, who runs with a gossip-snippet to the headmaster’s office, hoping to gain some favour with the powers that be at the expense of the innocent. They all look so innocent. The suicidal suggestion during the Credo was a stroke of genius. Of course Iago is a man on the edge. That he killed himself and not Otello made perfect sense. The jig is up. Traditional evil Iagos will forever more seem one-dimensional and easy.

I also emjoyed all the surveylance imagery. Iago doesn’t do much except observe a lot of the time. In a world where it is now illegal to publish photographs of illegal activities in the oil and food industries, it is clear that evil is not as obvious and on the surface as the storybooks led us to believe.

I must make special mention of Violina Angeulov. Disclaimer: she is a friend and regular colleague. I just LOVE her on stage. She has the magical ability to not only inhabit her character, but also to instinctively understand the role of that character in every scene. She has the ability to hold the attention without distracting from the main action, and then seems to disappear into the scenery when she needs to disappear. The scene where she takes center stage right at the end was THRILLING. Most Emilias sound old and tired and past their peak. Not this one. She imbued those often melodramatic lines with such beauty and drama I have never heard in the great recordings. She elevates every minor role into a major one.

Derrick Ellis did a great job as the poor yobbo Cassius. His singing was better than one often gets in this “secondo” tenor role and he played the slightly dumb blonde very well.

I only saw the Italian Otello. He was WHITE! Where was the Moor of Venice? KABANG! RETHINK REQUIRED! Suddenly one wonders about the race element in the opera. How much of one’s understanding of the opera/play is dependent on the fact that he has to be black? Well. I recognised Otello. He was a man I had seen so often growing up: A teacher, someone’s father, brother or uncle, a religious Minister, a school principal. He was an absolute CARBON COPY of the Afrikaner Milleu in which I grew up. WANNABE heroes. Heroes flawed to the core, with limited capacity for self-reflection or introspection. Rape, violence, guns all around, parenting and husbanding by a sharp forehand smack, the ubiquitous military. It all rang too true. We have the highest incidence of family-killings in the world. There’s an Otello on the street where I live. My son calls him the troglodyte and I’ve forbidden him to even go near this man. Indeed, he has instructions to run when he sees this man coming. The post-traumatic stress of the South African Apartheid Army came through as loud and clear as the criticism of the actions in recent memory of the American military implied in the Aircraft-carrier. Mad White Men doing Mad White Things. I was not angry with Iago in this production. I was angry at Otello. Otello is not a victim of Iago’s manipulation. He is a victim of his own flaws. His inability to BE the moor – inhabit the space of the real hero, the alphamale, the warrior – but instead being a rather feeble-minded shell of sexual prowess, aggression and violence parading as masculinity – was for me exactly the power and point of this production.

 

As for his voice? I seriously did not go to the Opera expecting anything but disappointment. This role is as big as it gets. The next step up is Fidelio or Wagner – a very different voice type to any other Verdi. Not even Aida asks this much from a tenor. There are maybe 5 or 10 real Otellos on the planet. There is a reason why Domingo sang this role across the planet hundreds of times and no one else does or did. And someone like Jonas Kaufmann we just cant afford here. So. I expected to be disappointed on one level. And when he started singing I thought “Ok, this is not THE Otello of Otellos – swiftly moving on…” I enjoyed his struggle. A man trying to be a hero, a lion, and just not quite cutting it. There was something affecting in the difficulty. And that said, given many tenors I have heard at CTO over the years, he didn’t do that badly. All the notes were there, intonation secure, he kept what power he had to the end.

 

The military garb in which this Otello was presented brought up many of my childhood memories and horrors. I grew up doing cadets at school and my brother went to the army. We visited him in the army camp. Not allowed to move outside the designated areas. Don’t step beyond the line, don’t question, don’t look. Get in, visit your brother, and get out again. You’re in the army now, boy. And this army was used to help oil the machinery of apartheid. Even seeing the military uniforms made my throat tighten with tension and apprehension. It cannot bode well. I agree that there was no real sense of “urgency” in the opening choral movements on stage, but in a war in which you do not believe, there are no heroes, no victims. Only collateral damage and perhaps a pension plan. Boys conscripted into an evil machine do not feel great urgency about the possible sinking of some military bigwig’s boat. The futility of it all was handled very well. The very fact that there was nowhere to move, made me focus on the music more.

The one scene that didn’t make sense to me was the children’s chorus, mainly because I couldn’t see what was going on and why they were there.

Mention was made of a “wearying parade of macho men in uniform being maimed or killed in one dreadful way or another”. Yes, welcome to my world. That’s how I grew up, and that’s the world many people still see around them. Young people I knew being killed in the Army fighting a battle they didn’t believe in, or were brainwashed to believe in. And coping with the depression mainly through alcohol and abusing women. I didn’t think the fighting scenes were good – they never are on stage. I just accept that this is the obligatory “here is where we pretend to fight” bit and listen to the music and hope it will be over soon. So perhaps, this “reality” view is not why some people go to the theatre? Perhaps they want escapist art? I don’t. Perhaps I do sometimes, but I would never put Otello in that category.

I do not find any beauty in Otello in the conventional sense. Shakespeare created an archetypal lab-experiement which we witness the inevitability of a Meerkat and a Snake sizing each other up in a glass box. You might move this prop or that, but you already know that it won’t end well. There will be blood on the glass, the question of exactly whose, purely academic. There is no “gasp of beauty” in the sense you get in Traviata or Boheme. Otello stands unique – the gateway to Wagner, the door to the 20th century. We do not yet have the psychology of Alban Berg. What we do have is a giant work, chiselled from archetypal marble – as much of a challenge as ever, on so many levels.

The orchestra was simply superb. The audience was rude and noisy. The aircon was too loud. The interval serving areas need to be streamlined. And still, an unforgettable evening. A privilege to hear this work. The final word on the subject? Not a chance…

Visit Cape Town Opera’s Website HERE

Otello_TILE_new

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Pretty Yende: Videoclips of South Africa’s young star soprano

Televised video footage of Pretty Yende performing at the Stellenbosch Oude Libertas Theatre, with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Chris Dowdeswell, 19 December 2009.

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CD_

Dear Pretty: We love you and wish you only the best and will follow every note you sing with anticipation and delight.

All of us who have worked with Pretty Yende or seen her in performances since her early student days, are simply thrilled at the successes she has achieved internationally. She is the perfect role-model for young artists – dreams really can come true if you have the talent, drive and persistence. And Pretty Yende is one of the hardest workers I know. Having had the pleasure of performing with her and also being repetiteur in some of her productions for Cape Town Opera, I can only report sheer pleasure in dealing with her. She is the ultimate professional. The glorious instrument, the sincere stage-personality and above all the dogged determination to “get it right”, is an inspiration – and was even then, in her undergraduate years – to fellow artists and students.

Tribute must also be made to the musical guidance she received from her mentors in South Africa, in particular Prof. Angelo Gobbato and the lecturers and coaches from the UCT Opera School. We also fondly remember the late Mr. Colin Howard, a loved and respected coach with whom miss Yende worked for a number of years. Her voice teacher was Prof. Virginia Davids.

Conductor Chris Dowdeswell

The video footage below is taken from a televised Gala Concert at Stellenbosch’s Oude Libertas Theater, 19 December 2009. The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Chris Dowdesewell.

Please support the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra. Their commitment to quality music-making is a beacon in the South African cultural landscape, giving young artists such as these valuable training and experience in the performing arts. You can find their website HERE.

***
Mesícku na nebi hlubokém (O silver moon) from Rusalka by Antonin Dvořák, (1841-1904)

***
Ah! Je Veux Vivre’ (Juliet’s Waltz song) from Roméo Et Juliette by
Charles Gounod (1818-1893)

***
Meine Lippen, Sie Küssen So Heiss from Giuditta by  Franz Lehár (1870-1948)

***
Care compagne… Come per me sereno… Sovra il sen
from La Sonnambula by Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835)

***
Csárdás
(Klänge Der Heimat) from Der Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899)

***
Mercé, dilette amiche (Bolero)
from I Vespri Siciliani by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

Read more about the Pretty Yende Gala Concert with the CPO HERE.

Some of these items were performed with Piano Accompaniment (Albert Combrink on Piano) at the Pretty Yende and Friends Opera Gala Concert in the Cape Town City Hall, in August 2010.

Here is Amateur video footage of her prize-winning performance at the Leyla Gencer Singing Competition in Istanbul, Turkey”.

Pretty Yende singing “Suis je gentile ainsi” from “Manon” by Massenet.:

 

Pretty Yende was the winner of the 2011 Operalia Competition. She competed in Moscow under the baton of Maestro Placido Domingo, who is patron of the competition. Miss Yende won First Prize (Best Females Singer), joint First Prize in the Zarzuela Category, and the Audience Favourite Prize. Here is her final round performance in Moscow on 22 July 2011. The orchestra is conducted by Maestro Placido Domingo, patron of the competition.

 

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Isango Portobello’s “Magic Flute” – Critical acclaim

It was sheer pleasure for me to be involved in this production. Working with such magnificent voices is sheer pleasure. Rethinking a masterpiece is a risk, but also an exhilarating creative project. When the audiences and critics approve, and the gamble pays off, it is sheer delight.

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Pauline Malefane and Mark Dornford-May accepting the London Critics' Olivier Award

This is one of the more adventurous, unusual and unconventional theater productions in which I have been involved. Using an eclectic mix of theater-techniques, re-orchestrations, and major re-stylisation, Mozart’s masterpiece Die Zauberflöte (K620) was workshopped and reshaped into the English musical theatre piece Impempe Yomlingo – Magic Flute. African dance, costume and instruments retell the story in a context with South African resonance. Musical influences include calypso and more traditional African music. 

Critical acclaim for the production and its various revivals at theatres around the world was high. It won the Globes de Cristal at the Théâtre de Châtelet and an Olivier Award in London.

What the international press had to say:

* * * * *
Thrillingly, heart-burstingly alive
Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times

* * * * *
True Mozartians will love this enchanting version by Isango Portobello… It has all the original’s essential qualities: soaring lyricism, a sense of celebration, generous moral urgency, playful joviality. From the off, it is touching, sexy and cheeky and leaves you with a rare sense of life-enhancing joy
Sunday Times

* * * * *
The overture would surely have made Mozart laugh with delight… Exuberant and youthful… a smash hit. Pauline Malefane is a majestic presence as the Queen of the Night
Sunday Telegraph

* * * * *
Truly enchanting for children and adults. Warm, collective, universally accessible, musical magic
Time Out

Pauline Malefane as the Queen of the Night

An explosion of joy from the townships of South Africa… noble and beautiful and tender and funny and touching and true… Exuberance invention and glorious ensemble singing… A sense of celebration and resilience, that seems to encapsulate the human spirit at its best. Pauline Malefane is a thrilling Queen of the Night
Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph

Mozart would surely have loved it. Delightful
Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail

Performed with infectious wit and visible joy…
Mark Dornford-May’s vibrant, elating production

Paul Taylor, Independent

Mandasi Dyantyis has brilliantly rescored The Magic Flute… the singers are accompanied by eight marimbas which send a gurgle through the familiar music: it is as if the whole opera were floating on a stream of water. Sometimes it bounces, sometimes is jazzes… It is not only played: it is performed. This is music embodied and enacted… The spirit of Mozart is honoured while every decorous preconception is ditched. At the front of the auditorium five year-olds were gawping; at the back, 60-year-olds were doing the same.
Susannah Clapp, The Observer

Mozart as you have never heard him before, but magic nevertheless… familiar melodies filtered through the distinctive heartfelt and soulful sound and beat of black South Africa. I defy you not to sway along in your seat. A joyous show
Mail on Sunday

When the classical arias and ethnic ululations fuse, it’s euphoric. Mozart would surely have loved the cheeky wit of turning his orchestra into eight marimbas and the magic flute into a silvery jazz trumpet
Independent on Sunday

A joyous, exuberant experience
The Sun

Zamile Gantana is a hugely entertaining Papageno (Photo: Keith Patterson)

* * * * *
Performed with unbridled passion and explosive joy
An object lesson in how to create authentic, vibrant theatre

Whatsonstage.com

* * * *
Packing enough energy to power a couple of national grids, and enough decibels to lift several roofs.Exhilarating and vibrant, exuberant entertainment
Richard Morrison, The Times

* * * *
Mark Dornford-May’s stunning adaptation. Listening to the overture played on marimbas is like hearing it with fresh ears
Michael Billington, The Guardian

Busisiwe Ngejane, Thazamo Mdliva, Sifundo Soji & Zamile Gantana

(Picture by Mark Freeburg)
* * * *
Pauline Malefane is exquisite as the soprano Queen Of The Night
Metro

The production team of Magic Flute – Impempe Yomlingo:

Director: Mark Dornford-May
Lighting: Mannie Manim
Choreographer: Lungelo Ngamlana
Costume: Leigh Bishop, Annamarie Seegers
Music Director: Mandisi Dyantis
Voive Teacher: Nolufefe Ntshabe
Repetiteur, music- and vocal coach: Albert Combrink

For more information, see http://www.magicflutethemusical.com/

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Magic Flute wins “Globes de Cristal” at Théâtre de Châtelet

From the Japan Times to the Cape Times and many in between, Isango Portobello’s “Magic Flute” has drawn critical and popular acclaim. Winning the Globes de Cristal at the Théâtre de Châtelet in France is only the latest in a series of awards.

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Flute 7
Flute 1

Whawha Mosiea takes the role of Prince Tamino

Isango Portobello Theatre Company were recently presented with the prestigious Globes de Cristal Award for Opera for The Magic Flute – Impempe Yomlingo, recognising their sell-out season at the historic Théâtre de Châtelet in France. The Globes de Cristal awards are France’s main arts and culture awards. ‘To win this prestigious award is a great honour,’ said Pauline Malefane, co-founder and musical director of Isango Portobello.
Malefane has also been nominated for a Fleur du Cap Award for Best Performance in a Musical for her role as Deus / Jesus in The Mysteries – Yiimimangaliso. Mannie Manim, who joined The Fugard Theatre team at the beginning of 2010, has two nominations in the category of Best Lighting Design.

The production team for Magic Flute:

Director: Mark Dornford-May
Lighting: Mannie Manim
Choreographer: Lungelo Ngamlana
Costume: Leigh Bishop, Annamarie Seegers
Music Director: Mandisi Dyantis
Repetiteur, music- and vocal coach: Albert Combrink


For more information, go to http://www.magicflutethemusical.com/

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The noise behind the music: Pauline Malefane sings “Summertime” with the Berlin Philharmonic

The public face of the calm and poised diva belies the difficult circumstances in which such a performance is created. Albert Combrink reflects on being Pauline Malefane’s vocal coach during the run-up to her debut as both Mozart’s Queen of the Night in the UK, and Gershwin’s Bess with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Sir Simon Rattle.

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Flute 9

Pauline Malefane performing  Summertime from Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin
Concert St Sylvestre 2008,
Berliner Philharmoniker,
Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle

Anyone hearing this magnificently poised and peaceful performance might not think of the pressured rehearsal and preparation period for such a high profile performance with arguably the top orchestra and top conductor in the world. I had the pleasure of being Pauline Malefane’s vocal coach throughout her preparation for Mozart’s Magic Flute, for the Isango Portabello Company.

I met Pauline when she was still a student under Prof. Virginia Davids at the UCT Opera School, where I was the repetiteur. Her performances included duets from La Traviata and other coloratura and high soprano work, but she was  – in those days – a lyric soprano. She had the trademark warm low notes for which African singers are famous in this country.  Those low notes came in handy: Miss Malefane shot to international fame in a filmed version of the  Mezzo-Soprano role of Carmen in the Golden Bear Award winning uCarmen eKhayelitsha.Yet in this production of Impempe Yomlingo/Magic Flute, she shot to the other vocal extreme: that of the role of the Queen of the night. The tremendous demands of that role required daily work on runs, scales, arpeggios and all the tricky twists and turns Mozart devised for this mad mother. Nolufefe Ntshabe, the company’s voice teacher, was there to push, press, demonstrate, support and crack the whip. But her knowledge of the vocal processes and her instinct about what she was hearing and how she could improve it, was crucial. But we did not have the luxury of time. Turning a Carmen into a Queen was a dicey undertaking, and would be, even in the most perfect opera house in the world.

It was in between these intense rehearsals for the Queen of the Night – with all the pressure of getting her from the low notes of Carmen to the other vocal extreme which is the murderous Queen – that we prepared her programme for Sir Simon Rattle. Loud Marimbas and drums right next door in an echoing church hall. Dancers and drummers  just on the other side of the door. A half-dead piano fit not even for firewood, placed in the entrance to the communal kitchen shared with the church office where ladies of the community came to do crafts projects. No sound proofing or air-conditioning in the sweltering summer and noisy, smelly and ultimately inadequate gas heaters and broken windows in the icy winter. Most divas would faint at the thought of having to prepare such a high-profile event in such circumstances. Imagine Kathleen Battle or Jessye Norman preparing for their debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in a hot little prefab with no windows.

Yet Pauline is always graceful under pressure, and her wonderful sense of humour and hard work, made it so much easier. The preparation process, instead of being influenced by the apparent chaotic processes going on around us, remained focused and to the point. We even had the opportunity to present the Mozart to Sir Simon Rattle himself on his visit to Cape Town. He attended our rehearsal, and was so encouraging and complimentary of the efforts that he saw. He was a true example of how encouraging and supportive a great conductor can (and should?) be. Yet one wonders if even he had any inkling as to the circumstances we managed to produce the work we did.

The proof of the pudding lies in the eating. When you listen to this clip, please do not just listen to the voice – exquisite as it is. Please, do not just look at the calm face – exquisite as it is. Listen to the township noises, the women of the chorus making tea, the marimba-players frantically polishing up their Mozart overture in pidgin tonic-solfa, young dancers negotiating a loan for the taxi-fare home into the poverty stricken landscape that is the seemingly endless townships of the Cape flats. Listen to the freezing wind coming off the Atlanic ocean through the cracks in the windows and the gaps between the roof and the ceiling. Only if you hear all of that in the background, can you really hear this Summertime.

Pauline Malefane as Bess and derrick Parker as Crown in Angelo Gobbato's production of "Porgy and Bess" (CTO)

Later I had the pleasure of being repetiteur for Angelo Gobbato’s production of Porgy and Bess for Cape Town Opera, which was performed in South Africa and and Sweden. Pauline’s dedication to the drama and music was always noticed. Her pianissimo took one’s breath away. It is always a pleasure for me to work with this wonderful singer.

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Pretty Yende Gala Concert: Photos

Photos from the “Pretty Yende & Friends Opera Gala Concert” and Tenth Anniversay Gala 2010 hosted by Diemersfontein Wines. Pretty Yende, Albert Combrink, Luthando Qave, Given Nkosi, and July Zuma, Elizabeth Frandsen.

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Photos from the Diemersfontein Wines 10th Anniversary celebrations 2010.

Pretty Yende was the winner of the 2011 Operalia Competition. She competed in Moscow under the baton of Maestro Placido Domingo, who is patron of the competition. Miss Yende won First Prize (Best Females Singer), joint First Prize in the Zarzuela Category, and the Audience Favourite Prize.

“Pretty Yende and Friends – a Gala Opera Evening” in the Cape Town City Hall – 11 August 2010 – was followed by a prestige celebration dinner and concert at the Diemersfontein Wine Estate on 13 August 2010. The concerts not only celebrated miss Yende’s recent international successes as well as Diemersfontein’s first decade of successful wine making. The concert represented much more than that. Young artists such as presented in this concert, and not only miss Yende, are the success stories of South Africa. It was a huge amount of work to prepare the concert. But it was also a tribute to the long hours of slog by the stalwarts of opera such as Prof. Virginia Davids and Prof. Angelo Gobbato of the UCT Opera School. The work of many other singing teachers and coaches was represented on that stage, supported by a host of named and unnamed supporters, benefactors and projectors of love and good will. We all have our eye on these artists and watch their careers with pride, anticipation and love.

When I saw the YouTube clip of the tumultuous ovation Pretty Yende received for her debut at La Scala, I just cried with happiness, love and pride. I have such respect for the young artists who keep working and fighting to overcome the many obstacles in their way, often from inside the music industry players themselves, who should feel mandated to support their own. The concert pointed to the wealth of talent in South Africa. And it pointed out the flaws in the fantasy of the “Talented African Singers” who just have natural ability. These artists WORK. They study and take lessons and have coaching. This all takes money. And with all the talent in the world, without the finances to make it happen, it can remain untapped.

Watch Pretty Yende – accompanied by the Cape Philharmonic orhestra conducted by Chris Dowdeswell – sing the Song to the Moon from the opera Rusalka by Antonin Dvorak:

Thank you to Sue and David Sonnenberg for their passion and the vision of this event. Their ongoing support to young artists has opened doors which might have remained shut. There’s a saying in Israel: Im tirtzu ein so agada - If you will it, it is no dream. And we will this. And these dreams are coming true.

Read a full review of the Gala Concert by Deon Irish, published in the Cape Town Argus HERE.

Pretty Yende & David Sonnenberg

Luthando Qave & Albert Combrink

Susan Sonnenberg, whose passion for opera and admiration for Pretty Yende created the entire vision for this week-long celebration

Given Nkosi, Pretty Yende & July Zuma

Albert Combrink

July Zuma, shortly before his return to his opera studies in Barcelona.

Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Frandsen

Albert Combrink (Piano) & Given Nkosi (Tenor): Cape Town City Hall

Pianist Albert Combrink & Soprano Pretty Yende - Cape Town City Hall

Cellist Sarah Acres & Pianist Albert Combrink: Cape Town City Hall

Diemersfontein Wines 10th Anniversary Concert and Dinner: Given Nkosi (tenor), Luthando Qave (baritone), Pretty Yende (soprano), Albert Combrink (piano), July Zuma (tenor)

Diemersfontein Wines 10th Anniversary Concert: July Zuma, Albert Combrink, Luthando Qave, Brett Rightford, Pretty Yende, Francoise Roode, Susan Sonnenberg, David Sonnenberg, Deidre Taylor, Rene May, Given Nkosi, Denise Stubbs

Here you can see an operetta extract: Pretty Yende – accompanied by the Cape Philharmonic orhestra conducted by Chris Dowdeswell – performs the aria Meine Lippen by Franz Lehar from the Operetta Giuditta:

Great applause from the La Scala audience for Miss Yende’s debut. She performed the music from her planned debut at the concerts in South Africa.

See more Youtube clips of Miss Yende and read an interesting perspective on South African singers at Jean Ronald LaFond’s blogsite

Kashu-do (歌手道): The Way of the Singer

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Pretty Yende & Friends Gala Concert: Cape Town City Hall – Photos

The Pretty Yende & Friends Opera Gala Concert presented by Diemersfontein Wines to raise funds for the Excelence in Africa Trust, held in a sold-out Cape Town City Hall on 11 August 2010 was an enormous success. A large sum of money was raised to boost the scholarship fund for young South African artists on the verge of international careers.

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Pianist Albert Combrink & Soprano Pretty Yende - Cape Town City Hall

Pretty Yende was the winner of the 2011 Operalia Competition. She competed in Moscow under the baton of Maestro Placido Domingo, who is patron of the competition. Miss Yende won First Prize (Best Females Singer), joint First Prize in the Zarzuela Category, and the Audience Favourite Prize.

The Pretty Yende & Friends Opera Gala Concert presented by Diemersfontein Wines to raise funds for the Excelence in Africa Trust, held in a sold-out Cape Town City Hall on 11 August 2010 was an enormous success. A large sum of money was raised to boost the scholarship fund for young South African artists on the verge of international careers.

The programme was a public and critical success. The Cape Times reviewer Deon Irish reported”

Her voice is still the utterly lovely thing we all know; but fuller, richer and now invested with a heightened technical control that makes the vocal product utterly beguiling.”

Cellist Sarah Acres & Pianist Albert Combrink: Cape Town City Hall

Deon Irish: “Sarah Acres provided welcome cello interludes and Albert Combrink, onstage throughout, underscored the value of a good accompanist with playing that was consistently stylish and supportive.”

 

Albert Combrink (Piano) & Given Nkosi (Tenor): Cape Town City Hall

Diemersfontein Wines 10th Anniversary Concert and Dinner: Given Nkosi (tenor), Luthando Qave (baritone), Pretty Yende (soprano), Albert Combrink (piano), July Zuma (tenor)

Baritone Luthando Qave

Luthando Qave – en route to his new life in New York as member of the Metropolitan Oper’as Young Artist’s Programme, proved a huge hit with the Cape Town audiences who were blown away by his delightful personality and thrilling renditions of arias such as Figaros’ Largo al Factotum, from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Seviglia.

Given Nkosi gave polished performances throughout and his Che gelida manina from Puccini’s La Boheme was particularly touching.

Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Frandsen

Elizabeth Frandsen gave powerful performances such as an aria from Rossini’s Tancredi but brought the house down with her delivery of Amour, viens aider from Saint-Saens’ Samson et Dalila.

Diemersfontein Wines 10th Anniversary Concert: July Zuma, Albert Combrink, Luthando Qave, Brett Rightford, Pretty Yende, Francoise Roode, Susan Sonnenberg, David Sonnenberg, Deidre Taylor, Rene May, Given Nkosi, Denise Stubbs

On the programme was Miss Yende’s rendition of Bianca’s Recitative and Aria Voi la Sposa from Rossini’s L’occasione fa il ladro, in which she would be making her debut at the world famous Opera House La Scala, Milan just a few weeks later. (See Video clip below).This production is directed by no less an operatic superstar than Jean Pierre Ponnelle. Miss Yende’s return to Cape Town was amid a buzz of excitement as she had just won joint first prize in the Savonnlina Opera Competition in Finnland. Yet, shortly after the Diemersfontein concert, she flew off to Istanbul, where she won yet another first prize in an international singing competition. She came in first among the nine finalists of the 6h Leyla Gencer Voice Competition in Istanbul, Turkey, enchanting audiences in a splendid closing gala at Istanbul’s Aya Irini Museum.


Soprano Pretty Yende singing her way to the First Prize in the International Leyla Gencer Singing Competition in Instanbul, Turkey

"Uit volle bors": Pretty Yende giving it all she's got. That's why we love her.

Watch a video clip of the Duet of Parmenione (Natale De Carolis) & Berenice (Pretty Yende) from her 2010 Debut at La Scala Milan in the role of Berenice in Rossini’s

L’occasione fa il ladro

Valeria Tornatore, Daniele Rustoni, Pretty Yende

The Gala Concert also included an extract form Verdi’s opera I Vespri Siciliani with Albert Combrink as the accompanist. Here is a video of Pretty Yende- accompanied by the Cape Philharmonic orhestra conducted by Chris Dowdeswell – singing the famous Bolero from this opera:

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Luthando Qave – Young South African Baritone heads for New York

“Sing with your soul and all you have. That is the only way I know.” Luthando Qave is an example of the new wave of South African singers attracting publicity on foreign shores. After being given a few solos in East London school choir, he spent time at Cape Town Opera as a chorister, before moving to Sweden for two years of study with the sole purpose of becoming an opera singer. He recently won a place for himself in New York’s Metropolitan Opera Studio. He is in South Africa briefly to sing in the “Pretty Yende & Friends – a Fundraising Opera Gala Concert” in Cape Town’s City Hall on Wednesday 11 August.

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Metropolitan Opera Baritone Luthando Qave

I first met Luthando when he was a young, (very young – 17 going on 18) chorus-member for Cape Town Opera, where I was the repetiteur. His beautiful voice and gentle nature makes him instantly likable. It is therefore a double bonus for me to rejoice in the success he has already achieved. He initially became a chorus member as his application to study opera at UCT had been unsuccessful. In the opera chorus he was given roles to understudy, such as Jake in Porgy and Bess, and he took bit-parts such as Marco in Gianni Schicchi, but we were denied the chance of seeing him in something substantial. When the company took this production on tour to Berlin, he had to step in unrehearsed for an indisposed colleague, singing the role of Crown, and by all accounts, did a sterling job.

But his professionalism and potential was noted overseas more than locally. He was chosen to sing in the chorus of the NorrlandsOperan’s production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman). The Norrlands Opera House has a relationship with Cape Town Opera, collaborating on productions. During the Swedish run of one of these collaborations, Poet and Prophetess , Luthando was encouraged by the director Magnus Aspergen to audition for the University College of Opera in Stockholm, Sweden. This he did, despite some local consternation, and in 2008 Luthando moved to Sweden where he studied with Anita Soldh until 2010.

He has had master-classes from Lauren Flanigan, Johan Botha, Sussana Eken and Helmut Deutsche. He also credits coaching he received from Prof. Kamal Khan who conducted various productions for Cape Town Opera while Luthando was a member of the chorus, or Vocal Ensemble, as they were known. Luthando feels that the encouragement and positive response from Khan fed his self-confidence in seeking a singer’s  life beyond the chorus. He started his musical life as a school-choir boy, and there was a time where he did not really consider solo singing as something that anyone did. He knew the choir and that was his field of reference. However, Gwyneth Lloyd, an East London singer and teacher who runs her own music training programme,  gave Luthando his first taste of opera.

Luthando has attracted the attention of the international music world. In 2009 Luthando was a finalist in the prestigious Neue Stimmen International Singing Competition in Gütersloh, Germany. In Austria he was finalist of the Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition 2010, winning the special prize of the Washington National Opera and the Houston Grand Opera. And in April this year he was given a position at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, as part of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

I caught up with him briefly en route to New York, on a short visit to South Africa, where he will be performing in the “Pretty Yende & Friends” Gala Concert.

What was different for you about studying in Sweden to working in South Africa?

Luthando: Their patience. The calm way of studying. No one screams at you. They expect you to make mistakes because you are a student, they do not expect you to know it all. If there is something you do not know, they expect you to learn it, but they give you time. There are also many more teachers to choose from, if one does not work for you, it is easy to change teachers without fear.

Also the teachers work very hard to open the possibilities of success for their students. Information about master-classes and competitions are always freely distributed and it is not so easy to miss chances as it is in South Africa. Often, the people who audition for competitions or overseas productions have already left South Africa before you even hear about it.

What were the main technical lessons you learnt about your voice?

Luthando: I was taught to sing with the whole body, not just the voice. You need stamina to sing the whole night, and if you only use your throat you will not get far. Working on the voice without putting pressure on the vocal chords, it’s an ongoing process. Also baritones have darker voices and one is tempted when you are young, to try to sing “backward” in your throat, to make it sound older or bigger. But with my teacher I spent a long hard time on the job of projecting my voice forward. Also, in Sweden they like to work on lieder – all that beautiful music! It is so focussed and takes so much concentration. It really teaches you how to use your voice properly!

How did you cope with the pressure of the International Singing Competitions?

Luthando: I was a bit paranoid the first time. There are so many singers out there, and they are so good. It is like the United Nations when you go to one of these things! It is so different to sing your programme with a piano accompaniment in one round, and then suddenly in the next round you are singing with a whole orchestra. You can not prepare for that, except by doing it. With “Neue Stimmen” I was the only baritone in the semi-finals. I did well, but I was not myself. The nerves were terrible. It was all so foreign and different. I sang the best I could, but I knew I could do better. But last year, with the Belvedere Competition, I felt a lot more comfortable. The work on my voice was paying off, and I had some experience from the last competition to draw on. It feels good to be chosen out of 3000 entries internationally even to go and sing, let alone get into the finals. 150 singers sang in Austria and I was in the final 12. I worked so hard, I must feel good about that.

How do you feel about singing in Cape Town next week?

Luthando: I am so happy. Every singer wants to sing for their “home crowd”. It is sad that there are not more opportunities for South African singers to return home to perform. In Sweden, I would see the other singers “go home” to Latvia, Istanbul, China, and they are applauded and welcomed back with concerts and performances. It is not like that in South Africa, we still have to work so hard even to get to sing. So I am really happy that I can come and show people that I have learnt and worked hard.

What advice would you give a young singer?

Luthando: Believe in yourself. If you want to progress on that road to success, you first have to believe that you deserve to be on that road. Always work hard and always be open to criticism. Even sharp words can be turned to your advantage and make you stronger. But don’t allow the negativity around you to break you down. Sing with your soul and all you have. That is the only way I know.

You can listen to the following recordings by Luthando Qave:

Largo de la Factotum from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia recorded at the Neue Stimmen 2009 Singing Competition.


Ya vas Ljublju – from Thaikovsky’s Pikova Dama.

Questo amor vergogna mia – from Puccini’s Edgar.


You can read more about the Pretty Yende & Friends Gala Concert HERE.

You can read more about Pretty Yende’s success in the Savonnlina Singing Competition HERE.

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Pretty Yende wins Finland’s Savonnlina International Singing Competition

Pretty Yende – South Africa’s singing sensation – has grabbed international Arts headlines again. She won joint first prize with American tenor Michelle Angelini at the Savonnlina International Singing Competition in Finland On Sunday 25 July 2010. She will be performing in the Cape Town City Hall on August 11 2010.

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Pretty Yende and Andrea Boccelli performing at the SA FIFA 2010 World Cup Closing Ceremony
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Prizewinning Soprano Pretty Yende

Pretty Yende – South Africa’s singing sensation – has grabbed international Arts headlines again. She won joint first prize with American tenor Michelle Angelini at the Savonnlina International Singing Competition.  The Savonnlina Opera Festival in Finland holds an International Singing Competition in conjunction with its annual Opera Festival, attracting visitors from across the globe.

The panel reads like a Who’s Who of the international opera world. The judges were:

JARI HÄMÄLÄINEN - Artistic Director, Savonlinna Opera Festival

ELAINE PADMORE - Director of the Royal Opera

VINCENZO DE VIVO - Teatro Carlo Felice, Genova

JONATHAN FRIEND - Artistic Administrator, Metropolitan Opera

BRUNO MICHEL - Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris

ANDRÉS RODRÍGUEZ - General Director and Artistic Director, Teatro Municipal de Santiago.

The judges decided to combine the cash awards of the first two prizes, and to award them equally to the two singers.

Pretty Yende and superstar Andrea Boccelli performing at the South African FIFA 2010 World Cup Closing Ceremony

South African audiences will be able to hear Pretty “on form”, as it were, as she will be performing in Cape Town on 11 August 2010 in “Pretty Yende and Friends – a Fundraising Opera Gala” in which she is generously helping to support the “Excellence out of Africa” bursary trust which supports help artists on the cusp of international careers. I her Cape Town concert she will be performing some of the works she sang in the competition, treating South African audiences to a “Musical World Cup” Quality performance.

You can read more about “Pretty Yende and Friends – a Fundraiser Gala” HERE.

“Pretty Yende and Friends” – a Fundraiser Opera Gala

Venue: Cape Town City Hall

Date: Wednesday 11 August 2010

Time: 19h00

Ticket Prices: R80 – R250

Exclusive Corporate Packages: avaliable on request through marketing@thokozani.co.za

Pretty as we have grown to love her: smiling and happy after having given her best on stage, winning the Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in Vienna

Hear South Africa’s top operatic talent in a concert to raise funds for the next generation’s stars. Pretty Yende – on a brief return from La Scala Milan, and Luthando Qave – en route from Sweden to take up a position at New York’s Metropolitan Opera- are joined by  Elizabeth Frandsen and Given Nkosi, Cellist Sarah Acres, and Pianist Albert Combrink, in a Gala Concert to raise funds for the Diemersfontein “Excellence out of Africa” Bursary Trust. Pretty Yende recently performed with superstars Andrea Bocelli and Bryan Adams in the FIFA 2010 World Cup Closing Concert and Luthando Qave was a finalist in the Belvedere International Singing competition. Given Nkosi and Elisabeth Frandsen have been seen in many lead roles in Cape Town and abroad. Cellist Sarah Acres adds an unusual touch to a vocal evening. The concert is devised and presented by Albert Combrink.  The evening promises world-class singing with artists who have already made their mark internationally.

Cast:
Pretty Yende (Soprano)
Elizabeth Frandsen (Mezzo-Soprano)
Given Nkosi (Tenor)
Luthando Qave ( Baritone)
July Zuma (Tenor)
Sarah Acres (Cello)

Albert Combrink (Piano)

Proceeds of the evening will go to the “Excellence out of Africa Trust” to raise funds for gifted South African musicians and artists – assisting them to show South Africa’s talent to the world.

Bookings: now open at  www.computicket.com

On the programme will be an extract from Bellini’s Opera La Sonnambula. Here is a video of Pretty Yende- accompanied by the Cape Philharmonic orhestra conducted by Chris Dowdeswell – singing the aria Care Compagne from Bellini’s masterpiece.

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