Angelo Gobbato is recognised for his work in A Passion for Opera at Artscape
Angelo Gobbato is recognised for his contribution to opera in A Passion for Opera at Artscape

PETA STEWART

Angelo Gobbato has been described as a national treasure, and one that is certainly entrenched in the cultural fabric of Cape Town, South Africa and internationally through the impact he has made on the lives of many of South Africa’s top singers. In fact, say opera and the name Gobbato immediately springs to mind.

It’s a measure of the respect, love and admiration that singers feel for him that has brought together more than a dozen of South Africa’s singers like Pretty Yende and Musa Ngqungwana to celebrate his 75th birthday in a concert – A Passion for Opera.

Final Dress Rehearsal

While tickets for the concert on June 27 2018 with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Kamal Khan (Bernhard Gueller conducts the CPO in the overture to Fidelio) are sold out, the overwhelming demand resulted in the Final Dress Rehearsal on June 26 being opened to the public.

Pretty-Yende and Musa Ngqungwana appear in A Passion for Opera at Artscape
Pretty Yende and Musa Ngqungwana appear in A Passion for Opera with the CPO

This was a working rehearsal which meant there would be stops and starts, with some of the singers conserving their voices for the next night’s performance, but at R100 it was a bargain! The concert is supported by the City of Cape Town, Naspers, Artscape, the Consulate of Italy and the Friends of Cape Town Opera.

Angelo Gobbato is in the middle of publishing his memoir, which records his life from his babyhood in Milan (naturally La Scala features prominently) to Cape Town (he arrived when he was seven) and back and forth over the decades. He made his mark here with both Cape Town Opera and UCT Opera, directing many an opera and nurturing many a talent, not least amongst them is Pretty Yende herself.

While he mentored many, he was mentored himself by Albina Bini, before he went back to Milan to study further. As a reminder of his first role in Cape Town in 1965 when he sang the role of Kecal in The Bartered Bride, he has included this in the event’s programme. It’s an audio recording with David Tidboald and the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra.

From that point on, Angelo Gobbato sang many roles before moving into direction and in 1976 became resident producer at the old Nico Malan Opera House. Troubled by the government’s policies that prevented black singers from having the same opportunities given to white opera singers, he was able, from 1982 when he became head of the Opera School at UCT, to train and encourage a generation of black singers, some of them have gone on to great roles overseas and South Africa.

CTO Vocal Ensemble

The rest is history – he started the Choral Training Programme at the then CAPAB, bringing in singers from the Eastern Cape to join in with those in the Western Cape and started the nucleus of a well-established opera chorus which in time would become the international prize-winning CTO Vocal Ensemble. Assisted by a number of opera-loving businessmen, he succeeded in registering Cape Town Opera as an independent organisation not for gain. He resigned as CEO of Cape Town Opera in 2005, remaining Director of the UCT Opera School until his retirement in 2008. Since then, he has collaborated with Kamal Khan on several productions staged by CTO Studio in collaboration with UCT Opera School, including the recent Traviata and The Tales of Hoffmann.

Who: Angelo Gobbato birthday concert – CPO with Kamal Khan, Pretty Yende and more singers
What: A Passion for Opera
Where: Artscape Opera House, Cape Town, South Africa
When: 27 June 2018 at 8pm
Info: 
www.cpo.org.za, Artscape Dial-a-Seat 021 421 7695
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra: https://www.cpo.org.za/
WS