Opera world mourns the loss of KS Johan Botha (1965-2016), one of the greatest voices of our time.

  • Post author:

Cape Town Opera is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of KS Johan Botha in Vienna early this morning.

Johan’s contribution to opera is inestimable.

Born Aug. 19, 1965, in the northern South African city of Rustenburg, Botha studied singing from an early age, and launched his international career as a choir member at the Bayreuth Festival.

During a nearly 30-year career he performed regularly at the world’s most important opera houses, including La Scala, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

In 2012, Johan was appointed Kammersänger in Vienna, one of the most illustrious positions in the opera world.

Johan had been suffering from liver cancer and was forced to stop singing for seven months while he underwent treatment.  But he celebrated a comeback in June, singing one of his signature characters — Siegmund in Wagner’s “Die Walkuere” — at the Budapest opera.

Johan was appointed honorary patron of Cape Town Opera when he visited South Africa in August. At an intimate event held at the Mount Nelson to mark the occasion, Sue Smith, Chairperson of CTO, recalled seeing Johan in the role of Walther von Stolzing in Die Meistersinger in Vienna. Sue said, “Johan’s singing is sublime; he can move me to tears or lift me up to great joy. What specially touches me is his modesty, generosity and willingness to help young South Africa singers.”

Capetonians witnessed Johan’s legendary generosity on stage when, unbeknownst to the audience, he performed one of his last concerts, with the CPO, conducted by Bernhard Gueller, on August 13, at Artscape Opera. Johan’s gallantry towards, the young singers Goitsemang Lehobye, Bongiwe Nakani and Mandla Mndebele was apparent and touching.

Today the Vienna State Opera flies a black flag in mourning for Johan Botha. The Director of the Wiener Staatsoper, Dominique Meyer issued this statement:

The Vienna State Opera mourns Kammersänger and honorary member Johan Botha, who died in Vienna this morning (8th September 2016) after a severe illness.

We are all deeply affected by this loss – Johan Botha left us way too early. We had been very much looking forward to his return on stage as Calaf, after a serious illness did not allow him to sing “his” Turandot premiere in spring. Johan Botha was one of the best tenors worldwide in his fach and has always been one of the most important singers of our House. He is leaving a considerable void behind.

Tributes have been pouring in from the opera community:

The tenor Michael Schade, singing Mahler’s 8th symphony in Tokyo, wrote:

In just two hours I get to perform one of the greatest compositions one can be allowed to perform- I will dedicate this to Johan Botha – a true Held and Gentlemen and one of the greatest voices that I ever got to share the stage with!!

CTO would like to extend our sincere condolences to Johan’s parents, his wife Sonja and his two sons.