In the interests of public safety, Covid-19 lockdown level 1 protocols will be observed at all Cape Town Opera events. Seating is limited.


Quoin Rock Wine Estate, Stellenbosch *


12 December

Cape Town Opera partners with one of the Cape’s premium wine estates for a festive gathering at Quoin Rock in Stellenbosch. Canapés and bubbly will be served prior to an hour-long programme of much-loved, melodious music from Italy, Russia, America and South Africa.

Performing with pianist José Dias are well-known baritone Conroy Scott, as well as soprano Brittany Smith, mezzo-soprano Ané Pretorius and tenor Nkululeko Mqobongo.

In a programme of firm favourites, highlights will include ‘Près des remparts de Seville’ from Bizet’s Carmen; Gilda’s aria ‘Caro nome’ from Verdi’s Rigoletto; Rachmaninoff’s ‘Vesennije vody’; and ‘If I loved you’ and ‘You’ll never walk alone’ from Carousel.

Presented in collaboration with Quoin Rock wine estate.
* Canapés and bubbly 4–5:45pm, concert 6–7pm.

This concert is proudly sponsored by The Lord & Lady Lurgan Trust, Sigrid Rausing Trust, Western Cape Government DCAS, City of Cape Town, Kirsh Foundation, Judith Neilson Head Trust



Quoin Rock Wine Estate, Stellenbosch


13 March

Cape Town Opera celebrates the work of great American composers: Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and William Bolcom are recognised for the genius of their respective songwriting careers and for their remarkable output in an array of musical idioms. Amy Beach, meanwhile, was a prolific composer who – despite relative obscurity – was in fact the first female American to receive serious and widespread recognition for her work.

Born in 1847, Amy Marcy Beach was a piano prodigy who made her Boston concert debut when she was 16; she took to composing after marrying, producing symphonies, piano concertos, large-scale orchestral works, festival music, and over 150 songs. Her rather grand, sentimental Romantic music was performed widely as part of the early-20th-century concert repertory, although she has been largely neglected since her death in 1944, and her work has only recently been rediscovered and revived.

Barber (1910–1981) was a Pennsylvanian who composed widely for stage, orchestral, chamber, piano, choral and vocal idioms – his reputation was for unflinching adherence to a personal voice, stubborn devotion to classical style, and a distaste for experimental movements of the day. By the middle of the century he was among the most frequently performed composers in Europe and the US. His lyrical style and expressive voice never left him, nor his instinct for graceful proportion and an affinity for Romantic emotion.

Known for his flamboyant style as a conductor, and his larger-than-life personality, Bernstein (1918–1990) might well be America’s ultimate all-round 20th-century musical superstar. He left an indelible impression not only on classical music but also on popular culture. Having first drawn acclaim as an electrifying conductor, his compositions have been cemented in memory across a spectrum of genres – from operetta (Candide), to film scores (Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront), to musicals, including the eternally popular West Side Story (1957).

Like Barber, Bolcom (born 1938) is a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music. He is considered an icon of American eclecticism, composing in multiple musical genres – operas, symphonies, concertos, sonatas and songs for cabaret. He also won a Grammy Award – for Songs of Innocence and of Experience. The culmination of 25 years spent working on the piece, his setting of 46 William Blake poems for solo voice and piano, orchestra, and chorus is considered a groundbreaking achievement in contemporary classical music.

Cape Town Opera presents this celebration of American greats, under the musical direction of José Dias and with the voices of soloists Brittany Smith, Ané Pretorius, Nkululeko Mqobongo and special guest William Berger.

Sponsored by The Lord & Lady Lurgan Trust, Sigrid Rausing Trust, Western Cape Government DCAS, Kirsh Foundation, Judith Neilson Head Trust



St George’s Cathedral, Wale Street, Cape Town



Composed in 1610, and now recognised as a pinnacle of the religious repertoire, Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of the Blessed Virgin display a level of theatricality and ambition unmatched in sacred music of the era.

Unhappy in his post in Mantua, Monteverdi dedicated the Vespers to Pope Paul V, perhaps intending the work to be received as an elaborate ‘audition’ for a more prestigious position at a church in Venice or Rome; such a flamboyant composition confirmed his capability. In its day, the scale of the work – thirteen movements with a libretto compiled from various liturgical and Latin Biblical texts – was unprecedented, making huge demands of its seven solo singers and requiring a sizable chorus capable of dividing into as many as ten parts.

In line with current COVID-19 regulations, CTO will produce an abridged filmed version of the Vespers in St George’s Cathedral (for broadcast on kykNET) directed by Matthew Wild with Director of Photography Dewet van Rooyen. Live performances with limited seating in the Cathedral are due to follow when regulations allow.

The impressive line-up of soloists for the performance includes sopranos Elsabé Richter and Brittany Smith, mezzo-soprano Siphokazi Molteno, tenors Makudupanyane Senaoana, Jason Atherton and Nkululeko Mqobongo, and baritone William Berger.

Joining them are the award-winning Cape Town Opera Chorus and the Tygerberg Children’s Choir, under chorus masters Marvin Kernelle and Karina Erasmus respectively, and period-instrument orchestra Camerata Tinta Barocca, conducted by Erik Dippenaar.

Presented in association with Camerata Tinta Barocca, St George’s Cathedral, Wyrd Films and kykNET.

Image ©Karin Miller





3 – 10 APRIL

In Hänsel und Gretel, Engelbert Humperdinck masterfully combined simple folk-like melodies with Wagnerian techniques to create the world’s favourite fairy tale opera. The darker psychological recesses of the original Brothers Grimm tale will be brought to the fore in CTO’s new production, designed by renowned artist-photographer Roger Ballen, and directed by Alessandro Talevi.

Together with Marguerite Rossouw (his creative collaborator for the last 14 years) and lighting designer Kobus Rossouw, Ballen will bring his trademark aesthetic to a theatre stage for the first time in this production. Dubbed ‘Ballenesque’ by art critics, Ballen’s visual language is rooted in symbolic representations of decay, poverty, chaos, internal animal impulses, mental anguish and entrapment. It is a visual universe which blurs fact and fantasy, dream and reality, fiction and documentary – and an aesthetic which is now recognised by millions across the globe through Ballen’s collaborations with Die Antwoord. “What’s important for us is that – whether we are working with Die Antwoord or working with this opera – we want our fingerprint, our aesthetic, to integrate with the narrative and expand it,” says Ballen. “We want to create a new aesthetic out of an old aesthetic.”

South African-born director Talevi will lead a world-class team in a production which promises to embrace the darker resonances of the fairy tale. Maestro Kazem Abdullah returns to CTO to conduct the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (following his acclaimed debut for the company with Maria Stuarda in 2018). The production stars Ané Pretorius as Hansël, Brittany Smith as Gretel, Janelle Visagie as the Mother, Martin Mkhize as the Father, and Bongiwe Nakani as the Witch (returning to South Africa fresh from her successes at the Wiener Staatsoper).

Presented by Cape Town Opera

Image ©Roger Ballen





Novalis Ubuntu Institute, Cape Town


4. 5 June

Two contrasting one-act operas (one written for an all-male cast, and one all-female) will be juxtaposed in this thought-provoking and emotive double bill, conducted by Jeremy Silver and directed by Christine Crouse, with designs by Linda Mandela.

Based on the 15th-century Japanese Noh play Sumidagawa (Sumida River) by Jūrō Motomasa, the libretto for Benjamin Britten’s church parable Curlew River was written by the South African-born author William Plomer. Focusing on the pain of a woman who has lost her child, the opera follows the search of the Madwoman (played by a tenor) for her missing son, and her eventual journey through grief to find a sense of spiritual enlightenment.

Also confronting themes of loss and grief, Amagokra (‘Heroes’) is a new one-act South African opera about the heroic strength of women in the face of adversity and despair. Commissioned by CTO as part of its ongoing commitment to developing new local operas, Amagokra is composed by Sibusiso Njeza to an isiXhosa libretto by Fleur du Cap-winning actress and writer Asanda Chuma Sopotela. The opera is a poignant examination of the legacies of Uyinene Mrwetyana and Fezekile Ntsukela “Khwezi” Kuzwayo, South African women whose lives were tragically lost in violent crimes.

Young singers from CTO and the UCT Opera School will feature in this collaborative production, which will be staged at the Novalis Ubuntu Institute in Wynberg.

Presented by Cape Town Opera in collaboration with the UCT Opera School

Image ©Buhlebezwe Siwani


THE PEARL FISHERS - in concert

Artscape Opera House, Cape Town


15. 17 and 19 June

Fresh from their successes in major European opera houses, Vuvu Mpofu and Lukhanyo Moyake return to CTO to headline a semi-staged concert version of Bizet’s lush South-Asian fantasia, conducted by world-renowned British maestro Jan Latham-Koenig.

Composed to a libretto by Eugène Cormon and Michel Carré, Les pêcheurs de perles premiered in Paris in 1863, when Bizet was only 24; the critics who rudely dismissed the work at its premiere can hardly have imagined that the duet ‘Au fond du temple saint’ would become a global hit in the 20th century. Better known simply as ‘The Pearl Fishers Duet’, this famous set-piece sees the two men at the heart of the story make a vow of eternal friendship – a vow which will soon be torn asunder as they both fall in love with the same woman, the priestess Leïla.

This concert will reunite Vuvu Mpofu and Lukhanyo Moyake, who last sang together for CTO in Rigoletto in 2017. Both singers have notched up a string of major successes in Europe in the intervening years; Mpofu has won acclaim at Glyndebourne, the Bayerische Staatsoper and Vlaamse Oper, while Moyake followed his English National Opera debut with two successful seasons at the Wiener Staatsoper.

This semi-staged concert performance, conceptualised by Matthew Wild and staged by Elisabeth Manduell, will feature stage and costume designs by Michael Mitchell, and spectacular large-scale projections created by young Cape Town artist Shakil Solanki. Drawing inspiration from his Hindu upbringing and from Eastern classical art, Solanki’s work is simultaneously sensual and discomforting – a fascinating visual counterpoint to Bizet’s gorgeous score. Acclaimed British maestro Jan Latham- Koenig, a regular guest at the world’s most prestigious opera, will make his South African debut conducting the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.

Presented by Cape Town Opera

Image © Shakil Solanki


Artscape Opera House


26 June

A starry selection of South African singers will gather in Cape Town in mid-winter, to appear in a one-night-only Gala of opera excerpts by Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti and others.

The line-up includes a number of South African singers who have achieved remarkable success abroad: Bongiwe Nakani and Lukhanyo Moyake return from extended stints at the Wiener Volksoper; Thembinkosi Magagula from successes in Amsterdam and Aix-en-Provence; and Thesele Kemane from Oper Frankfurt.

After recent successes at CTO, Makudupanyane Senaoana, William Berger and Bongani Khubeka make a welcome return, supported by CTO Young Artists Brittany Smith, Ané Pretorius, Siphokazi Molteno, Nkululeko Mqobongo and Lwazi Dlamini. The CTO Chorus will sing under the direction of Marvin Kernelle, accompanied by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.

This Gala is presented in support of the Duet Trust, a joint endowment for the continued support of Cape Town Opera and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, under the patronage of Mrs Wendy Ackerman.



Baxter Theatre, Cape Town


8–11 September

For his South African debut, incoming CTO Artistic Director Michael Hunt will direct a pair of Puccini operas, kicking off with the lesser-known Parisian gem La rondine (The Swallow).

When Puccini accepted a commission from Vienna’s Carl theater in 1913, he embraced the opportunity to incorporate elements of Viennese operetta into his trademark late-Romantic idiom. The bittersweet plot of La rondine mixes Lehár-style intrigue with the pathos of Verdi’s La traviata; the ‘swallow’ of the title is the courtesan Magda de Civry, who longs to ‘fly south’ to find true love and happiness. “Who cares about wealth, if bliss flourishes in the end?” she sighs. “Oh golden dream, to be able to love like that!”

Hunt has transposed the opera to the 1950s, setting the action in the fashion and couture houses of Parisian high society. The renowned British opera choreographer Maxine Braham will co-direct, while young German designer Bettina John is responsible for both sets and costumes. Jeremy Silver conducts the UCT Symphony Orchestra and a cast of promising young singers drawn from the CTO Young Artist Programme and the UCT Opera School. When La rondine was last seen in Cape Town (in 2007), then-unknown student sopranos Pretty Yende and Golda Schultz bowled the public over – audiences should expect to encounter some wonderful new voices in 2021 too!

Presented by Cape Town Opera in association with the UCT Opera School

Image ©Caitlin Truman-Baker






For the second of their pair of Puccini productions, Michael Hunt and Bettina John will create a touring version of Puccini’s beloved La bohème, which will embark on a South African regional tour in October 2021.

“La bohème is the first in our series of Neilson Tours, playing in many mid-size theatres and performing spaces in South Africa,” says Hunt. “This unique project has been facilitated by a 3-year grant from the Judith Neilson Head Trust. Every year two operas will be toured around the country involving South African-based singers who have not yet established international careers but who have received training. It recognizes the wealth of soloistic talent that exists outside of Cape Town where previously there were other full-time opera companies. It is also a valuable way in which our work can be seen throughout the country, increasing access to new audiences.”

The Neilson Tour of La bohème will feature eight singers and a five-piece chamber ensemble, with musical supervision by Jeremy Silver.



Artscape Theatre


20. 25 and 27 November

Outgoing CTO Artistic Director Matthew Wild will wrap up his six-year tenure with a new production of the greatest of all operatic ghost stories. Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera (first seen in Venice in 1954) is based on Henry James’s acclaimed 1898 horror novella of the same name, with a libretto by Myfanwy Piper. A masterclass in the creation of dramatic and musical suspense, The Turn of the Screw chillingly confronts a theme which consumed Britten for much of his career: the loss of innocence.

When a highly-strung Governess is dispatched to the remote country house at Bly, she whole-heartedly embraces the task of educating two young orphans, Flora and Miles. But a series of eerie encounters soon leads her to believe that the children are being influenced by malign forces; the unquiet spirits of the former valet and governess Peter Quint and Miss Jessel.

Acclaimed British conductor Jan Latham-Koenig will conduct a virtuoso chamber orchestra of 13 players, brilliantly used by Britten to conjure up an eerie and atmospheric sound world, while constantly ratcheting up the tension through evolving repetitions of a single all-pervasive theme.

For The Turn of the Screw, Wild will collaborate for the first time with the New York based design collective Dots, co-founded by South African-born designer Andrew Moerdyk, who followed studies in architecture with an MFA in film and theatre design from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. This production will mark his South African theatre design debut.

Presented by Cape Town Opera

Image ©Kate Gottgens