The 35th edition of The International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, regarded as THE “springboard” for young opera singers into a career in opera, is being held in Cape Town during the coming days, making it the first time that it will not be held in Europe.
With qualifying rounds in more than 70 cities worldwide, the competition attracts over 1300 entrants. Jury members for the finals are exclusively opera and casting directors of internationally renowned opera houses like the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Metropolitan Opera in New York and Deutsche Oper Berlin. The competition brings singers, their agents, their families, representatives of international opera houses and international media to the hosting city.
Some 80 contestants, mainly from Cape Town, are competing in the SA qualifying round on Friday, June 24, from 10am at Artscape in rehearsal room 553, to qualify for the next round in the Competition. (Entry is free.)
Those chosen will move on to the next rounds at the Baxter Concert Hall from Monday to Thursday, June 27 to 30, joining more than 100 international singers who have been chosen in live auditions held in the USA, Europe, Russia and Asia. The finalists will be announced on June 30.
They will compete for numerous prestigious prizes in the gala at Artscape Opera House on July 2, accompanied by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Kamal Khan. The gala will be directed by Cape Town Opera’s Christine Crouse. “The fact that the Belvedere finals are being held outside Europe for the first time shows that we are a country to be reckoned with,” says Khan. Several South African singers who have competed in the “Belvederes” in the past – from Pretty Yende to Levy Sekgapane, Siyabulelqa Ntlale and Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi – have achieved international fame, as have other winners such as Angela Gheorgiu.
Four South Africans reached the 34th Belvedere Singing Competition final round in July 2015, and Levy Sekgapane went on to win the 1st prize. Acclaimed South African soprano Pretty Yende famously won all the categories in the 2009 competition; Siyabulela Ntlale placed 2nd in 2014 and Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi took the 2nd prize in 2013.
Asked what it’s like competing in the “Belvederes”, 2015 winner Sekgapane told the Next 48hOURS: “It was of course very stressful, because it’s a huge competition, well known throughout Europe. You are watched by thousands of people and also by experts in the business, so you really need to be mentally prepared and strong. I was extremely nervous. Backstage I was moving up and down trying to keep my composure.”