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UNISA VOICE COMPETITION (article first published : 2006-01-24)

Some 33 young singers from 16 countries have been selected to participate in this Vodacom-sponsored Fifth Unisa International Voice Competition, the only one in Africa to be recognised by the World Federation of International Music Competitions. South African singers include the winners of last year's Southern African Voice Competition, Erica Eloff and former Durban singer Bronwen Forbay.

A star-studded jury, including South Africa’s operatic diva Sibongile Khumalo and the celebrated USA dramatic soprano Grace Bumbry, will decide the winners of the Fifth Unisa International Voice Competition. They will be joined by Tomoko Nakamura (Japan), Barbara Hill-Moore (USA), Josef Profchka (Germany), Wicus Slabbert (Austria), and Yuriy Gregoriev (Russia). South Africa will be represented by Angelo Gobbato and John Roos, in addition to Ms Khumalo.

“It is a privilege to welcome such an illustrious jury. It is an indication of the high regard in which the Competition is held that voice artistes of such calibre have accepted the invitation to join the jury,” says Mthobi Tyamzashe, Executive Director – Corporate Affairs, Vodacom SA.

Grace Bumbry, one of the world's most celebrated dramatic sopranos, hailed by critics and audiences alike as "spectacular", "unbelievable" and "spiritual". She was the first person of colour to be cast in a major role at the prestigious Bayreuth Festspiel Haus, a role that launched her into international stardom. She has sung with the world's greatest conductors and is an acclaimed Lieder exponent.

Tomoko Nakamura studied with the renowned Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and won First Prize at the prestigious Munich International Voice Competition. She sang major roles in the opera houses in Stuttgart, Cologne, Dresden, Essen and Bordeaux and is voice professor at the Okinawa University of Fine Arts and Music in Japan.

Barbara Hill-Moore performed throughout the United States and Europe to great acclaim. She is professor of voice at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, She manages an endowment fund awarding annual scholarships to students in vocal performance including young singers from Korea, China and South Africa.

Sibongile Khumalo is regarded as one of South Africa's most versatile singers, at home with oratorio, art songs, opera as well as jazz and traditional music genres. Highlights in her career include a performance with the London Philharmonic Orchestra as soloist in Handel's Messiah with Lord Yehudi Menuhin as conductor, with the London Bach Choir conducted by David Willcocks and in the world premiere of Mzilikazi Khumalo's epic Ushaka. She has appeared in the operas Carmen, Aida, Un Ballo in Maschera and Princess Magogo.

Josef Protchka is a celebrated Lieder and Oratorio singer and is a household name in the most important opera houses in Europe and the United States. Many of his more than 50 recordings are internationally acclaimed. In 2002 he became the Principal of the Hochschule fuer Musik in Cologne.

Yuriy Gregoriev is regarded as one of Russia’s most celebrated baritones and was honoured with the title "People's Artist of Russia". Professor of voice at the Moscow Conservatoire, he was soloist at the Bolshoi in Moscow for more than 22 years singing a vast repertoire of baritone roles.

Angelo Gobbato has received numerous awards and accolades for his contribution to opera in South Africa, especially in the Cape. After serving as the Director of the Opera School at the South African College of Music for seven years, he was appointed Director CAPAB Opera which was established as the independent Cape Town Opera.

Wicus Slabbert’s operatic successes led him to the Vienna State opera where he received the title of Kammersaenger which is bestowed for exceptional achievements in opera. He was in demand in opera houses all over the world.

John Roos is the Artistic Director of the Unisa International Music Competitions and regularly serves as juror in prestigious international music competitions.

The competition is divided into opera and concert categories. The competition takes place from January 23, with the finals taking place on February 3 and 4 in Pretoria. Tickets for the finals are available from Computicket. More information from the Unisa Music Foundation, PO Box 392, UNISA 0003 or phone 012 429 3344/3336 or e-mail: musicomp@unisa.ac.za




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