Inspiring the next generation of Opera stars

by Njabulo Madlala in South Africa

Inspiring the next generation of Opera stars


raised of £9,273 target
0% 17 days left
Flexible funding – this project will receive all pledges made by June 13th 2019 at 3:55pm

To help exceptionally talented young singers in the early stages of their development by staging masterclasses and a singing competition.

by Njabulo Madlala in South Africa

What We Aim to Achieve:

Each year I stage opera masterclasses in South Africa to give exceptionally talented young artists an avenue for personal and professional development. The majority of the singers I and my colleagues have worked with so far have come from the townships of South Africa and other areas where access to music and arts education is lacking. 

Through this campaign and with your help I aim to raise enough money to offer a subsidised intense two-week programme of masterclasses and workshops in South Africa, led by a team of invited and dedicated leading artists and arts practitioners from South Africa and abroad. 


How Much do I need?

£9 273

How Will I use the money I raise? 

The masterclasses this year are planned for 15-28 July 2019. 

12 young singers will be chosen at the close of the application and audition process at the end of May 2019. 

The masterclasses will be led by a team of 5 international artists who will also form the panel for the competition. 

The funds will cover two weeks of the following items: 

  • B&B Accommodation for the 12 young artists and 5 teachers in Cape Town - £3 834 
  • Meals (Lunch & dinner) for teachers, young artists and helpers - £2 327 
  • Coach Travel for the young singers from home and back - £655 
  • Venue - To hire Baxter Concert Hall for the Competition final £1 365
  • Minibus - Ground transport for both the teachers and the young singers during the two weeks- £1 092

Total - £9 273


The masterclasses which have been held yearly since 2013 offer young people in need of intervention and guidance with invaluable access to professionals within the field of opera who in previous years have come from the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Opera North, The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Umculo Incubator, France - Les Azuriales Festival and other freelance musicians who have come from Germany and the USA. 

The singers will be able to engage in dialogue held across the two weeks through a programme of talks, panel discussions (with Q and As), skills development and mentoring. They will further benefit from ongoing mentoring beyond the two-week programme.  


Focus of the Programme:  

Applications are welcomed from singers from all walks of life - the preliminary audition stages have been structured to ensure all are judged solely on their talent.  

Intensive training is provided for the young singers on presentation, stage craft, singing, languages, the music business and how to turn their talents into a sustainable business.


This project works with artists between the ages of 18 and 32 years.  Leading and well-established international opera singers, conductors and vocal coaches are invited and come to South Africa each year to work with our young singers in a highly focused but very supportive and safe environment, with the two week period structured to provide a variety of opportunities for them to pass on professional knowledge gained through many years of work as opera professionals. 

The component workshops cover a wide range of topics including understanding their basic instrument, developing their musicianship and improving their general understanding of the music industry (including an overview of the opportunities that exist and how best to go about accessing them). By the end of the programme our aspiring singers will have gained a greater appreciation of the pressures, complexities and rewards of working in the arts and, most importantly, how to launch and maintain a long and successful career as a professional singer. 

The project’s main aim is realised not only through links with individuals within the opera profession but also through partnering with international organisations (including the Royal Opera House and Opera North). We have already been able to identify, mentor and empower a large number of singers helping them to change their lives using their own talents. For example, we have helped six young people travel to the UK for auditions and studies at various institutions including the Royal College of Music, The Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme and the National Opera Studio. 

Alongside vocal coaching and masterclasses which are open to the general public, we also stage concerts in order to develop our engagement with the community. These events also provide our young artists with opportunities to gain valuable experience of singing in front of an audience. Each year the whole masterclass program ends with a two-day singing competition, recorded for future broadcast on national television. The singing competition gives the young singers a platform to showcase their talents in front of their peers and the wider community, as well as exposure to potential employers and education institutions.


Some Success stories so far: 

Bass-Baritone Chuma Sijeqa attended the masterclasses last years and won the 2nd prize. He had dreams then to go to London to study. Michelle Williams from ENO who was on the panel offered him a place in the ensemble of the award winning Porgy and Bess along with 8 other singers, Elaine Kidd and David Gowland from the Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artist Programme also on the panel offered him and one other singer Thando an opportunity to be on their Link Young Artist programme last year and again from this month to July. Sarah and Mark Holford, sponsors of a prize at the competition invited Chuma to their Les Azuriales Opera festival and Competition in France where he got to work with the South African director Alessandro Talevi and won the second prize there. While in London, Chuma and Thando were both heard by Dominic Wheeler and his team at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. They were both offered a scholarship starting in September 2019.


Young singer Simon Shibambu attended the masterclasses in 2013. He is a bass voice with a lot of potential. At the end of the program, he won the inaugural singing competition. Following this and through mentoring he was helped to apply to the Royal College of Music in London. He was helped to travel there for auditions. He secured a full scholarship and has been studying at the Royal College for two year. He is coming to the end of his studies this July and has been successfully by the ROYAL OPERA HOUSE to join them for a two contract and young artist soloist singing small parts and covering major roles. The Royal Opera House is a leading opera company in the world. 

Njabulo Madlala – Project Leader and Organiser

The child of a single mother, Njabulo grew up in the township of Inanda, near Durban. He was inspired to sing by his grandmother a domestic worker who encouraged him to join the church choir. When he left school he was offered a chance to sing in the Cape Town production of Carmen. He grabbed the opportunity and set off on a world tour with the opera. When he reached London aged 18 he was talent spotted and offered a full scholarship by the Guildhall School of Music, where he undertook graduate and postgraduate studies from 2002-2009. In 2010 Njabulo went on to study for a further year at the Cardiff International Academy of Voice with world-renowned tenor Dennis O’Neill. A Britten Pears Young Artist, a Samling Foundation Scholar and a young artist at the Ravinia International Festival USA, Njabulo has won numerous prizes including the 2010 Kathleen Ferrier Award, 2012 Singers Section Final of the Royal Overseas League Competition, the 2012 Lorna Viol Memorial Prize, the Royal Overseas League Trophy for the most outstanding musician from overseas, the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music in 2014, and has performed in numerous famous venues around the world. 

Opera highlights in recent seasons include making his main stage debut at the Royal Opera House in Shostakovich’s The Nose, in a new production directed by Barrie Kosky, Scarpia in Tosca (Grange Park Opera’s ‘Rising Stars’); Schaunard in La bohème and Bartolomeo in Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo (both for English Touring Opera); Whale in How the Whale Became, a world premiere of the opera by Julian Phillips for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; his Norwegian debut in Orlando Gough’s Voices and Votes for the Bergen National Opera; the title role in Mozart's Don Giovanni (Mid Wales Opera); Don Fernando in Fidelio, Bello La fanciulla del West and Schaunard in La bohème (all for Opera Holland Park); Master of the Thames Boat in Heart of Darkness (Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House), Kammersinger in Strauss’s Intermezzo (Buxton Festival Opera), Peachum in The Threepenny Opera (Hawaii Performing Arts Festival), Rangwan in Delius's Koanga (Sadler’s Wells Theatre), Don Giulio in Rossini's L’ajo nell’imbarazzo (Barga International Festival); Mel in Tippett's The Knot Garden (Montepulciano Festival); Escamillo in Carmen (Winslow Hall Opera); Moralès in Carmen (Dorset Opera Festival) and Porgy in Porgy and Bess at the Cheltenham Festival.  

In recital Njabulo’s highlights have included performing with Roger Vignoles (Cambridge Festival and Lugo Festival in Spain), Julius Drake (Mananan Festival), William Vann (Oxford Lieder Festival & Ripon International Festival), Simon Lepper (Wigmore Hall Monday Concert Series and Buxton Festival), Llŷr Williams (Gower Festival) and with James Baillieu (Lake District Music Festival). His debut CD titled Songs of Home was released in autumn 2013 on the Champs Hill Record label. 

Concert highlights include Mozart’ Requiem in D minor (English Chamber Orchestra, London Mozart Players and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra); Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (London Philharmonic Orchestra / Vladimir Jurowski); Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra); Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast at the Three Choirs Festival (Philharmonia Orchestra) and Royal Festival Hall (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra); Handel’s Messiah (Philharmonia Orchestra); Mendelssohn’s Elijah at the Snape Maltings; J. S. Bach’s Ich habe genug (Ten Tors Orchestra); Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at (Wimbledon International Music Festival) ; Orff’s Carmina Burana (KwaZulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra / Justus Frantz) Verdi’s Messa da Requiem and Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem / Richard Cock). 

This season Njabulo created the role of Ashwini in the world premiere of Sukanya - the only opera written by Ravi Shankar - a co-production between the Royal Opera House and London Philharmonic Orchestra.  He will also sing Casper in Weber's Der Freischütz and performs a series of Gershwin Concerts for Raymond Gubbay, Child of Our Time (Aberystwyth Choral Society), Carmina Burana (Hutton and Shenfield Choral Society's 50th anniversary concert) and excerpts from Porgy & Bess with Bolton Symphony and in Moscow.


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