Khayelitsha student takes the lead in reimagining of Verdi’s La traviata

Siphe Kwazi as Germont (foreground) and Lukhanyo Moyake as Alfredo.

UCT opera student, Siphe Kwani, born and bred in Khayelitsha, will perform the lead role of Germont in Cape Town Opera (CTO) and Opera UCT’s reimagining of Verdi’s La traviata which will be staged at Artscape later this month.

The limited season, with direction and design by Marí Borstlap, will run from Thursday to Sunday October 26 to 29.

La traviata centres around the glamorous high-class courtesan Violetta and her lover Alfredo as they are forced to confront relationship challenges in a critical society that judges them morally and socially. As her health declines Violetta’s choices, influenced by Alfredo’s father Germont, lead to heart-breaking consequences.

Siphe, a baritone, who is in his second year of a postgraduate diploma programme, spoke about performing the lead of Germont and how he got involved in opera.

Question: Have you sung a lead role in an opera before?

Answer: I was currently seen as Lindorf and Dr Miracle in the Offenbach Tales of Hoffman in the Baxter Pam Golding theatre with the Opera UCT. The set design , the costumes and the screens were so wonderful .

Q: Have you performed La traviata before?

A: I have never performed the full opera of La Traviata before but growing up in the local choirs we used to sing some of the chorus pieces for choir competitions.

Q: How did you come to be an opera singer?

A: I was introduced to opera music in local choirs and I had a mentor Unathi Ngcume, who introduced me to opera schoo. Then, I didn’t even know you can study opera as a career . That time was doing my first year at CPUT In Biotechnology (but) I dropped out. I guess you can’t run away from the calling. So that’s how I became an opera singer.

Q: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming opera singers? Are there any challenges you have faced and overcome?

Opera is an artform that demands excellence and mastery. It requires more than just a beautiful voice; opera singers must possess a remarkable range, impeccable technique, and the ability to convey complex emotions through their performances. There will be always challenges that one can face, I can say vocal fatigue, technical limitations, limited resources, self-doubt, and balancing personal and professional commitments.

So, if you’re an aspiring opera singer or simply passionate about the world of opera, join us on this journey of understanding the importance of continual skill development and discover how it can help you shine on the operatic stage.

La traviata will be performed on Thursday and Friday October 26 and 27 October at 7pm, on Saturday October 28, at 6pm, and on Sunday October 29 at 3pm. Tickets, available from Computicket, are priced from R180 to R520.