Africa Melane gets top Cape Town Opera job

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Sam Spiller
June 20 and 21, 2020 | Weekend Argus

RADIO personality Africa Melane has been appointed Acting Managing Director of the Cape Town Opera. The Cape Talk host will take charge on July 1, replacing Elise Brunelle.  “It’s an incredible honour,” Melane said. “I love the art form, we have some of the most talented people in this country for it. “It’s lovely for Cape Town Opera to still be mounting performances. To be given this responsibility of ensuring the steady, even-handed continuation of the company while they search for a new managing director is terrific,” he added. “It’s going to be a wonderful challenge.”

Brunelle is set to leave the country for an arts leadership position in the US. “I am honoured to have worked side by side with so many talented artists, to have befriended individuals from around the world who sponsor our work and educational programmes, and to have been a part of keeping opera alive in this singularly unique country,” she said.

Brunelle started at the Cape Town Opera in 2007, as a Financial Manager, before taking over as Managing Director in 2018. She’s overseen the company’s expansion into foreign markets, as well as broadened its youth and education programmes. Since the start of the lockdown, the company has adopted a digital strategy in an effort to host and provide performances.

This week, in association with Australian arts venue Phoenix Central Park, the Cape Town Opera released a recorded performance by soprano singer Brittany Smith with UCT’s head of opera, Jeremy Silver and Refiloe Olifant on violin, recorded at Casa Labia in Muizenberg. “Hopefully, this will bring the opera to a whole new audience other than the traditional audience which would buy a ticket and see a show at Artscape or the Baxter Theatre,” Melane said. “We’ve had to rework the business model. We’ve been incredibly lucky in receiving continued support from our funders. They haven’t pulled back and they appreciate we have to approach things slightly differently.”

The company has also reported a high level of financial stability and has been able to still pay staff salaries.  This in part to support received from government, benefactors, and patrons. “Obviously, we are sitting in a pandemic response time,” Melane said. “We have a strong artistic programme for the remainder of the year that seeks to respond to the limitations that Covid-19 presented us with.”

His appointment coincides with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Thursday that cinemas and theatres will be able to reopen as lockdown restrictions are further eased.  “It’s brilliant that the president indicated that theatres will be opened again with some limitations on how many people can attend,” Melane said.  “I’ve already started sitting in on meetings, but this is an opportunity to look at what can be planned for the second half of this year and see how we can start incorporating live performances with audiences.”