Mezzo-soprano Siphokazi Molteno (pictured left) can’t wait to sing in a competition in her own country, in the city of her studies, with her friends in the same competition, says PETA STEWART:
Siphokazi was chosen as one of just 32 of 800 entrants to sing in this year’s Placido Domingo’s Operalia competition, presented by Rolex and supported by the City of Cape Town.
She nearly didn’t enter.
“I had already signed a contract to sing in a new Jakes Heggie opera, Intelligence, in Houston when my friend, mentor and coach Kamal Kahn and those in my closest circle advised me to change my mind. I am a risk taker, and I thought, why not? This is a chance to sing in the world’s foremost opera competition, be coached my Domingo himself, and to sing before a panel of jurors which include artistic directors from opera houses from all over the world. Should I make the semi-finals and the finals, the audience will include many more decision makers because both are being streamed.”
The semi-finals will be streamed on the Operalia Facebook page and the finals by Medici.tv.
Siphokazi says this is her last competition because it is time now to settle into her career.
“I have just signed with a German agent and will most likely move from New York which I love to Switzerland, mainly because it’s a calm place with beautiful nature. Of course, it is close to the world’s opera stages too!” The agent has several options for her but none can be mentioned until the opera houses make the announcements.
Earlier this year, Siphokazi reached the finals of the Cardiff Singer of the World, no mean feat for this young woman from East London. “What a surprise to find that Nombulelo Yende was in the same competition – and that we both reached the finals was fantastic. I look forward to seeing her in Cape Town.”
From East London to New York
Siphokazi was taught at the Nelson Mandela University by Peter Louis van Dijk and Junita van Dijk, who introduced her to Brad Liebl at UCT, who introduced her to Patrick Tikolo who was her teacher at the SA College of Music, and Patrick introduced her to Kahn. She sang in operas at UCT and with Cape Town Opera where she was a young artist and also with the CPO in a private concert to honour the late politician Japie Basson.
She was accepted into the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at the Metropolitan and made her debut as Flora in La traviata at the Met, in the most recent season, to rave reviews. She also sang Sister Mathilde in Dialogues des Carmélites.
Siphokazi won a Fleur du Cap Best Performance in an Opera (Female) Award in both 2020 and 2022 and in 2020 she received the Rising Star Encouragement Award in the Glyndebourne Opera Cup. She has also won both the Ana María Martínez Encouragement Award and the Audience Choice Award at Houston Grand Opera’s Eleanor McCollum Competition in 2017.
Siphokazi says she was encouraged to be a singer – most of her family sung but not professionally – but it was only after matric that she decided that she had to become an opera singer and enrolled at the Nelson Mandela University for her first degree before coming to Opera UCT for her post-graduate diploma.
She settled well into New York in 2021 and its lifestyle and when she is not practising, taking lessons, in a production or jogging, she loves to cook – and rest in between it all! And she confesses to missing South African cooking.
What: Siphokazi Molteno at Placido Domingo’s Operalia
Where and when: Artscape from 30 October to 5 November 2023