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BRONWEN FORBAY (article first published : 2006-12-25)

Former Durban soprano, Bronwen Forbay has been awarded the 2007 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music. She was introduced to music when she started singing in the church choir in her hometown of Wentworth in Durban. She began to pursue music in a professional capacity at the age of 13 after winning second prize in the Natal Eisteddfod (without having taken a single voice lesson). "I was encouraged by Sylvia Daniels, to take voice lessons with my first voice professor and mentor, Colleen Philp at the University of KwaZulu-Natal," she explains.

Her love for music developed and she studied a Bachelor of Music degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. In 2002 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to read for a Master of Music degree at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. At present, she is a third year Doctor of Musical Arts (Voice Performance) student at the University of Cincinnati in the voice studio of Kenneth Shaw.

Bronwen is inspired by her family and mentors, Colleen Philp, Hilda Harris, Barbara Hill Moore and Kenneth Shaw, and by South African music icons such as Sibongile Khumalo, "I admire Sibongile for her beautiful instrument and the ability to sing in any genre with elegance and style," she says. However, she describes her main driving forces as, "knowing that I have the opportunity to be the best I can be and observing the work ethic of the people around me."

Her career accolades this year alone have included performing as guest soloist for the Durban Symphonic Choir's 40th Anniversary Celebratory Concert, winning the Russell-Seybold Award in the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music (CCM) Competition, receiving third prize for opera at the Fifth International UNISA Voice Competition, and being named SAMRO's most promising South African Opera Singer.

Recent opera credits include Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni on the Main stage at CCM, and Madame Goldentrill in The Impresario with the Voce Chamber Ensemble Orchestra in London. She has performed the soprano solos in Handel's Messiah, Dubois's The Seven Last Words of Christ, Faure's Requiem, and Bach's Magnificat and Cantata 79, amongst others.

When asked what her proudest career moment has been to date, Forbay said, "I love Baroque opera and a big highlight for me was to perform the role of Orasia, Queen of Thrace, in Telemann's Orpheus in June this year with the Wolf Trap Opera Company and being reviewed in the Washington Post and Washington Times." Another favourite moment was performing in the 2005 Last Night of the Proms with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Richard Cock.

Looking at the broader prospects for her future, she wants to ensure her own happiness and live her life to the full, "I would like to be a multi-tasker: professional opera singer performing regularly internationally, professor of voice (opera) passing on the knowledge I have learned to aspiring singers, an opera stage director, and a fundraiser for up-and-coming young South African artists."

The Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival to recognise emerging, relatively young South African artists who have demonstrated exceptional ability in their chosen field. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in three to four arts disciplines, affording them national exposure and acclaim. Winning artists, as part of their award, are given the opportunity to perform, direct or exhibit on the National Arts Festival's main programme. Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and has presented Young Artist Awards in all the major arts disciplines over their 23-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards.




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