What strikes you about Goitsemang is her lovely personality, lively smile and engaging eyes. And then the voice hits you. One of the most beautiful voices imaginable, a plummy rich soprano with a real spinto tang that sits as comfortably below Middle C as it does above Top C two Octaves above.
In a short career, Goitsmang has already had major successes that makes her the envy of many singers. From Opera Gala concerts with international starts Neil Shicoff and Johan Botha, to her upcoming debut at the New Year’s Ball in Helsinki, Finland, her career reflects hard work, oodles of natural ability and a positive attitude to make the best of any situation.
Born in Garankuwa, just north of Pretoria, Goitsemang was inducted into the South African choral tradition by her uncles and grandparents who used to take her along to choir practices. Her earliest role models were Whitney Houston and the family members who sang in the choirs. In Matric, she won an ensemble category of the Tirisano High Schools Competition. The solo category carries with it a scholarship to UCT’s Opera School, but not the Quartet Prize. Goitsemang would eventually end up at UCT, but the path was not as direct for her.
She was noticed at the Tirisano Competition and invited to join the Black Tie Ensemble Incubator Scheme. She spent the next 6 years as a pupil of Prof. Eric Muller and speaks of him with great affection. “He owns a part of me”, she says. “He shaped me from a fresh young singer with no technique to what I became.” Initially, intimidated by all the established big-voiced older singers, Goitsemang copied and imitated them – something not healthy for young singers. Muller worked on taking pressure off her throat, and working with her breathing. She calls Prof. Muller a “breathing man”, something to which many of us can attest.
The team of Neels Hansen and Mimi Coertse gave her valuable stage-experience and honed her desire to reach the top. “Mimi really kept us on our toes. She always kept pushing for the best we could deliver.” Goitsemang says “They are a good team for young singers to encounter, even when they disagree about staging or repertoire, if you keep your ears and eyes open you will learn so much. And laugh a lot in the process!”
She encountered Prof.Kamal Kahn from the UCT Opera School at a Gala Concert in Gauteng. He encouraged Goitsemang to relocate to Cape Town and join the Opera School. Pretoria had given her a good grounding and she did some Unisa Theory examinations and so on, but the time was ripe for her to tackle her future head-on. It was a difficult decision to leave her family, swap the world of the already-earning young professional for that of the penniless student. The overwhelming encouragement and support of her family plus the chance to go and study where she had dreamed about studying for years, all added to her arriving in Cape Town to start her formal studies. She studies with Hanna van Schkalkwyk, of whom she speaks in glowing terms: “She is like a mother to me”. The caring and love comes through in many anecdotes. She set about on a systematic technique- and vocal health programme with Goitsemang, which has borne tangible fruits. Goitsemang is grateful to Kamal Kahn for introducing them and for all the opportunities it has afforded her. As Goitsemang says: “She was just sent to me at the right time, and without her I don’t know where I would have been today”.
She was quickly noticed by the local musicworld in CapeTown. This is where I met Goitsemang for the first time, at the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra Neil Shicoff Opera Gala. I was pianist and vocal coach for the event. She made a stunning Cape Town “Diva Entrance” with the famous “Un bel dì vedremo” from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Goitsemang describes her terror about sharing the stage with such famous singers, but she said to herself “This man has been your idol for years, you are lucky enough to sing with him, now Smile and Breathe and Sing!” And sing she did! She received a standing ovation after her first aria, instantly winning over the Cape Town audience.
2013 has been triumphant for Goitsemang. She won both the Mimi Coertse Singing Competition and the Schock Singing Competition and consolidated her Verdian credentials with a spectacular performance at the UCT Opera school’s Viva Verdi at the Baxter Theater, and sang the role of Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni for Cape Town Opera. She will end off the year in Helsinki, Finland as soloist in the Strauss New Year’s Ball.
I ask Goitsemang what her advice would be to young singers.
“Work hard. Be careful with your voice. It is an instrument and you only have one set of tiny tiny vocal chords, and if you abuse them they will break. When they’re gone, they’re gone. So get yourself the best possible teacher you can.
Singing is not just about talent. The way you look, how you present yourself, your professional image, these things are vital. You need perseverance, dedication.
Talent makes us humble, not proud. We were given something special and we have the responsibility to work with it, nurture it, look after it, and let it do what it was intended to do.”
Watch this space for more news on this talented young lady whose career is on the Up and Up!