For the first time since its launch in 1993, some of the world’s top talent is heading to Cape Town for the 30th anniversary of Placido Domingo’s Operalia. This world-famous opera competition takes place at the Artscape Opera House from 30 October 2023 to 5 November 5 2023. Find out more about the must-see opera event in Cape Town!
What is Operalia?
Operalia is an annual opera competition that was started in 1993 by esteemed Spanish opera singer and conductor, Plácido Domingo. The goal is to create stepping stones for singers of all voice types from the across the world between the ages of twenty and thirty-two. More than 800 of them were auditioned by a panel of opera luminaries and 34 were selected to come to Cape Town.
Then an international jury, presided over by Plácido Domingo, listens to each of the chosen participants during two days of quarterfinals. Perhaps twenty participants will be selected to continue to the semifinals, and ten or twelve will be chosen for the finals. In the quarterfinals and semifinals, singers are accompanied by a pianist, and the final round is a gala concert accompanied by a full orchestra, in this case, the Cape Town Philharmonic.
Participating or even winning a prize in this competition is only the beginning of every singer’s relationship with Operalia. Since the jury is made up of international opera managers and casting directors, these distinguished jurors often invite and engage some of the singers to perform in productions that are being scheduled in their respective theatres. The competition has helped establish the careers of many singers like Pretty Yende, Levy Sekgapane and Metropolitan Opera star Sonya Yoncheva.
South Africa’s rich opera culture
‘In making the decision where to host the 30th-anniversary competition, we took into account that South Africa has an international reputation for the quality of its singers such as previous Operalia winners Pretty Yende and Levy Sekgapane, the reputation and quality of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO), the body of work of Cape Town Opera (CTO) and the versatility of the venue within the Artscape Theatre Centre, plus, needless to say the inherent beauty of the city of course,’ says Alvaro Domingo, vice president of Operalia.
‘When we discussed the details with the CPO’s CEO Louis Heyneman, we got his buy-in immediately since he sensed how important a distinguished competition such as Operalia, the foremost such competition in the world, would be to reinforce the city as an international cultural force.’
A first for Cape Town
Each year, the event is hosted in a different city and this year Cape Town joins the world’s cultural capitals such as London, Paris, Madrid, Hamburg, Tokyo and Milan as host cities. This will be the very first time an event on African soil since its launch in 1993.
‘We look forward to welcoming the organizers, candidates and international visitors who have already made arrangements to come to Cape Town, and thank Rolex and Operalia for their understanding of the fact that we can stage this foremost opera event with panache and efficiency,’ says Geordin Hill-Lewis, mayor of Cape Town.
The competition, with total prize money of some R4 million, also presents the perfect platform to underscore Cape Town as a tourist and cultural destination. As hosts for Operalia 2023, the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO), Cape Town Opera and Artscape provide the orchestra, venue, as well as logistical and administrative support.
Alvaro Domingo also mentions that a significant drawcard is that five of the 34 applicants of 800 are from South Africa and all studied in Cape Town. They are Nombulelo Yende (soprano), Siphokazi Molteno (mezzo soprano), Luvuyo Maranti (tenor), Thando Mjandana (tenor) and Sakhiwe Mkosana (baritone).
When and where is Operalia running?
Opera lovers and supporters of the arts can join preliminary rounds and final concert events where contestants perform popular and little-known works. Brush up on the beauty of opera and the sheer talent of students and professionals across the globe. Two quarter-final events are running on 30 and 31 October 2023 at 2pm and 3pm, while the semi-finals take place on 1 November 1 at 4pm.
Limited tickets are currently on offer for all the preliminary rounds. The award ceremony runs immediately after the final candidate has performed and the judging panel makes their deliberations.
The final round of the competition and awards ceremony is live-streamed by medici. tv and the semi-finals will be streamed on the Operalia Facebook page.
Cost: From R300pp, book via Computicket
When: Running from 30 October to 5 November 2023. Performances at various time slots
Where: Artscape Opera House, D.F. Malan St, Foreshore, Cape Town