Opera singer goes international

Popular opera singer Nolovuyiso Mpofu is performing as Gilda in Rigoletto for the last time as a member of Cape Town Opera.

Nolovuyiso Mpofu fell in love with opera at a young age when she watched a DVD of Angela Gheorghiu performing at La Scala opera house in Milan.

It was a world away from New Brighton, in Port Elizabeth, where Mpofu grew up, and she battled to understand the language at the time. However, she understood the emotion in the music, and that’s what drove her to pursue a career as an opera singer.

Today, Ms Mpofu lives in Rondebosch and she has made a name for herself on the opera scene.

At 26 she has already performed on various international stages, won third place in the Operalia, a world opera competition founded by Spanish tenor Placido Domingo, and was awarded the Audience Prize, and Second Prize, at the Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in 2016.

The singer who completed her postgraduate studies at the SA College of Music at UCT became a member of the Cape Town Opera Studio in 2014 and is now preparing to take on another dream role of hers as Gilda in Rigoletto, after which she will launch her freelance international career.

“I am very excited, it is one of the roles I hoped to do in the future, it is the second opera I fell in love with after La Traviata. Now I will have performed the pieces here at home and my dream is to perform the pieces overseas,” says Ms Mpofu.

She performed as Violetta in La Traviata in 2015, which was her dream as it was the opera which sparked her love for the art form, now she hopes to reach new heights by making a name for herself internationally.

“Coming from a black background and having achieved this much in this genre, it’s great, but I have not accomplished half of what I want to accomplish. I still have a lot to learn,” she says.

“I’ve wanted to sing since I was little. I love the music, the costumes, everything. I love interpreting the characters and being the person in the opera telling the story. I just love being on stage and (moving) others with my voice.”

Ms Mpofu originally started out singing choral music with an opera influence, which was encouraged in her community and school.

She later joined the community choir and as the years went by she couldn’t see herself doing anything else.

“My mom wanted me to become a doctor because I did well in mathematics and science, but I applied for music at UCT. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” says Ms Mpofu.

She says opera is not supported as an art genre in South Africa and although the market for opera is growing, opportunities to grow as an opera singer only really lie overseas. “It is changing little by little, hopefully it will continue to grow and people will continue to support it. Things are very different there (overseas) to things happening here. Nothing really comes this side. If you want something, you have to go overseas.”

Although she finds the idea of freelancing scary, she also sees it as a challenge and is looking forward to spreading her wings and taking on the new venture. Mpofu will be planning an audition tour to increase her opportunities for exposure. “Some people are lucky enough to be scouted early in their careers and others have to hussle,” she says.

“Everyone is entitled to follow their dreams, if you do something you don’t love, you’re not living. Do what your heart tells you to do. It’s not easy, but if your have strength and perseverance, you can succeed.”

Ms Mpofu’s Rigoletto performance may be the last chance for the audience to see her on stage as a member of Cape Town Opera before she launches her freelance career.

Rigoletto is produced by award-winning director Marthinus Basson and will have contemporary staging of themes of power, money, corruption, abuse, misogyny and prejudice in an African context.

The opera is on at the Artscape Opera House on Saturday February 11, Tuesday February 14, Thursday February 16 and Friday February 18. Book through Computicket.