The long shadow of dwarfs (Part 2)

To the true, the beautiful and the good. – inscription on the Frankfurt Opera house After having discussed in part 1 the aesthetic foundations of liberty, and one typical popular musical phenomena, yours truly likes to turn to the question of why tastelessness prevails at...

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To the true, the beautiful and the good.

– inscription on the Frankfurt Opera house

After having discussed in part 1 the aesthetic foundations of liberty, and one typical popular musical phenomena, yours truly likes to turn to the question of why tastelessness prevails at the moment, and why some of those phenomena die young. I will then turn to glorious news (as I dare to be an optimist) of the development of fantastic young Opera singers in South Africa.

Making money with nihilistic art production is the one and only triumph of cultural Marxism. It did not abolish the materially rich; it made them vulgar like any gutter-boy. It shows us physically that richness has nothing to do with elegance or nobility. And more: you can become rich by producing and managing empty, lousy, and ugly works of art. Of course, all conservatives and other decent people did know that already, but the Marxists and Nihilists proofed it on the living object.

My domestic from Malawi dresses more elegantly and stylishly then 95 percent of Viennese women, and about the remaining 5 percent I am not quite completely sure. In addition they, made it a reality that it is not longer reluctantly admissible to be mean in order to get rich, but that it is totally all right and admissible in being at the same time rich, mean, and vulgar. That is the best prerequisite for culture managers, especially in the field of music. The more empty and devoid of quality, the better.

The result is that everything – nearly everything – can be sold to rich and middle class and poor alike, if it just has the right (i.e. trendy left) cheeky slogan attached. T&Cs apply: if you challenge the emptiness and obvious vulgarity, you are a fascist.

Upon entering museums of modern art, or listening to the supposed more or less melodic noises, yours truly cannot stop laughing. But the best – the really best, the very best – are the large depots there all the gems of modern painting and sculpture which even nihilist art managers do not dare to sell, expose, or to exhibit, are stored.

You need a lot of good Champagne to survive that visual or noisy  ‘aesthetic’ experience. But with about three crates of Pol Roger and a beautiful girl on your side (or wherever it may be tolerable), looking at it or listening to it could then be very amusing, as modern art and, especially, designed ‘plastic’ music have no moral effect, nor any spiritual effect – just the need to make your champagne bottle go ‘bop’!

If we no longer cultivate music, we produce noise from the caves. [1]

You may ask what that has to do with liberty or economic considerations for a free market system? First, we cannot be truly free and rational acting humans if aesthetically rotting in the gutter, and, second, it warns us that even in the framework of a spontaneous and free economic order, aesthetic nonsense may happen and should be avoided as it finally subverts liberty and order.

But why do some musical phenomena die young or take drugs up to the upper edge of the lower chin? No one is more critical of his own products and creations than one who really wants to achieve and is culturally consciousness of his own qualities. But those who most intensely feel the huge gap between their puffed up status, the propaganda, and the empty wind made among them are celebrities and global icons, who often have quite limited or even poor substance. No one who at least tries to achieve something  meaningful in art can live and survive with that very big discrepancy, and no big numbers on pay cheques can redeem that feeling of emptiness and inadequacy which knocks on the door daily and mercilessly. They must then escape from a false, fake world into an even more unreal dream world. Drugs and alcohol are then easy remedies. “The emptiness empties any substance” [2] and then destroys the remaining. But the manipulators of nihilistic art production – and a public which does not dare to say ‘no’, and swallows every bit of nonsense and noise out of fear of being called reactionary, outdated, un-hip, fascist and so on – are all also guilty.

The circle is closed and perfect. The clueless and the cowards finance the nihilist machinery, which employs producers of noise and nonsense, which serve the base needs of the masses, who are then motivated to finance more of the same. The whole thing is redundant but profitable and therefore works ad repetendum.

But not with people possessing a rational and aesthetic standard. The task is to make their standard dominant.

And with that said, we march into the realm of brilliant young classic musical singers in South Africa.

Of course, my few sentences cannot be an anthology of all those marvellous artists, but I may name a few – with an heart-felt apology to the unlisted – and introduce them shortly. The readers’ interest is encouraged: Google, social media, and ClassicFM may give you a plethora of further information. “El lucevan le stele”…

The Gauteng Opera is an all-round performing arts and entertainment company focusing on opera-related productions, concerts, and events in South Africa. They not only do performances, but also organize an Academy for talented young singers and train and develop for the Opera of the future, do auditions and various events. You may meet them online and see and hear them on the 18th of July in Johannesburg presenting La Boheme.

Pretty Yende is surely one of the most outstanding lyric coloratura sopranos of the present Opera scene. Coming from Piet Retief, she discovered classic Opera by coincidence. Over years and years, she trained and developed her voice, won prizes and eminent competitions, until a few years ago she achieved a break through at the Metropolitan Opera in Le Comte Ory. She is based in Milano, and covers the Italian and French repertoire. Her CD Pretty Yende – a journey gives fabulous examples from various roles she performed. I wonder if we will hear her once as Isolde. Many people believe that one is born with a great voice – this is not quite so. It is a very difficult and demanding task to form a natural talent. The quip about success being 90 percent transpiration and 10 percent inspiration is most true in that musical realm.

Levy Strauss Segkapane is a young lyric tenor performing the Italian repertoire, especially Rossini. He has already sung many roles throughout various European opera houses. At the age of 27, he already has a wonderful lyric voice, which is most promising. Recently, he impressed as Conte de Liebenskof in Viaggio a Reims and Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola. Juan Domingo Flores, watch out!

Pumeza Matshikiza is a soprano who studied at the University of Cape Town College of Music, graduated cum laude under Professor Virginia Davids, then at the Royal College of Music, London, with a full three-year scholarship, and in the Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House, where she made her début as a flower maiden in Parsifal. She released her debut studio album, Voice of Hope, in 2014 containing both classic arias and African popular and traditional songs.

Stefan Louw is an outstanding tenor, singing both heroic and lyric tenor roles like Alfredo in La Traviata, Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly, or Cavaradossi in Tosca. He is also active in popularizing the Opera genre; for example he founded a non-profit organisation called Sempre Opera, which produces operas in South Africa. The launch concerts for Sempre Opera took place in March 2012 in Pretoria and Johannesburg. He has produced a series of concerts called Aria! Opera for Everyone, which ran in 2013 and 2014 at the Roodepoort Theatre in Johannesburg. In 2014, he started the non-profit Big Wig Opera company, also based at the Roodeport.

Noluvuyiso Mpofu is from the Eastern Cape near Port Elisabeth. In summer 2016, she won the 2nd prize at the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition held in Cape Town. She is a lyric coloratura soprano, and recently sung Gilda in Rigoletto, Clara in Porgy and Bess and Micaela in Carmen. I believe she is a great promise.

Siyabonga Maqungo is a lyric tenor who, after his study at the North-West University, gained a stipend for Cologne to do a Masters at the prestigious Kölner Hochschule für Musik und Tanz. During summer 2015, he made his debut as Alfred in Die Fledermaus at the  Staatstheater Meiningen, a theatre with a very long tradition of cultivating opera. His first fixed engagement started there in the season of 2015/2016, where he appeared in five productions, singing (for example) the Normanno in Lucia di Lammermoor and the Conte Almaviva in the Barbiere de Seviglia. Check him out!

Nombuso Ndlandla is also from Piet Retief, and a promising lyric coloratura soprano, but I believe she also has a dramatic touch. She also studied at the North-West University, also got a stipend to Cologne to finish her studies, trained by Professor Protschka She concentrates in Belcanto and music of Händel, Vivaldi, Mozart and Bach. She is promising and we hope for a break through.

Jaques Imbrailo is a classic baritone. He grew up on a farm in the Free State province of South Africa, and first got into singing on a dare, at age 11, during open auditions after a concert by the Drakensburg Boys Choir. He later went to university to study law, but took singing lessons on the side, earning both a BA Law degree and a BMus degree at Potchefstroom Campus in South Africa, in 2002. Later, he studied at the Royal College of Music in London. His first major success was his performance as Billy Budd in Britten‘s opera at Glyndebourne in 2010. He has performed in Debussy‘s Pelléas et Mélisande with the Welsh National Opera and at the Aalto Theatre in Essen, Germany, Mozart‘s Don Giovanni with the Scottish Opera, Così fan tutte with the Houston Grand Opera, Die Zauberflöte with the Welsh National Opera, Le nozze di Figaro with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Purcell‘s Dido and Aeneas with Rome Opera.

Musa Ngqungwana is a bass baritone coming from Port Elizabeth. He graduated with Honors in Performance (First Class) from the University of Cape Town, and is also a graduate of the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) in Philadelphia. He wrote his memoirs, Odyssey of an African Opera Singer: From Zwide Township to the World Stage, which was published in 2014. His performance highlights have included the roles of Talpa in Puccini’s Il tabarro, Count Waldner in R.Strauss Arabella, the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Lorenzo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi, and Zuniga in Bizet’s Carmen, plus the following roles during his time at the Academy of Vocal Arts: the title role in Verdi’s Oberto, the four villains in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann, Gremin in Tschaikovski’s Eugene Onegin, Sancho Pança in Massenet’s Don Quichotte, Samuel in Verdi’s Un ballo in Maschera, and Les Comte Grieux in Massenet’s Manon, and many many other roles and appearances.

With pleasure we may recognize a blossoming culture of classic singing among young or younger singers dedicated to the great musical heritage of Europe. Ex Africa lux!

  1. For an anthropological overview: Stanford and Forsyth, A History of Music, Macmillan & Co, London 1950; Chapter I and II. Music is more than just rhythm, voice, melody and instruments made with and by the hands and a more or less insecure and timid combination of that factors.
  2. My strongly subjective translation of Martin Heidegger’s sentence “Das Nichts nichtet”.
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