Cape Town Opera continues its work in 2019 with schools in a huge variety and breadth of communities throughout South Africa, bringing professional singers, pianists, coaches and accompanists to schools in disadvantaged and rural communities and identifying South Africa’s next generation of vocal talent. 

“The Cape Town Opera, through its developmental programmes, provides an enriching alternate lifestyle to youth who would otherwise be participating in the social ills ravaging our communities. Its high standards, quality teaching ethos and empowering opportunities enable the company to serve as a social bridge to allow all to holistically develop their talents and confidence through access to opera music, promoting dignity and self-worth while creating community upliftment.”

Western Cape Minister of Arts and Culture Anroux Marais.

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We’ve created an opportunity for Senior Secondary school learners, youth & senior citizen organizations as well as hearing impaired patrons to a backstage tour where they will meet cast and creative team members and attend the final dress rehearsal of La bohème, Così fan tutte and Hänsel und Gretel.


Each year, CTO’s team of singers, an accompanist and an education facilitator embark on a country-wide tour to provide music workshops for thousands of learners competing in South African Schools Choral Eisteddfod.  Due to the lockdown of SA in March 2020 the team was forced to cut their tour short. CTO’s Youth Development and Education department created the Sing Like a Pro series, made up of 12 instructional videos which demonstrate proper vocal technique, highlight specific challenges to each piece and voice type, and showcase past SASCE competition winners now singing professionally. CTO is working with the Department of Basic Education to provide these workshops online to learners throughout SA and beyond. With special thanks to The Judith Neilson Head Trust, The City of Cape Town, Maria Marina Foundation, Western Cape Government Department of Arts and Culture, The Patrons of Cape Town Opera and the UK Friends of Cape Town Opera Charitable Trust.

Click here for the Sing Like a Pro instructional videos.


In March and April CTO partners with the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport and WECCMA to launch a choral festival for rural farm, community, church and school choirs. Approximately 500 singers from Overberg municipalities (Cape Agulhas, Overstrand, Swellendam and Theewaterskloof) participate in the festival, and receive classes in fundraising, arts management and choral singing.


Over 20 artists are employed each year to implement these activities, from singers, choreographers and directors to pianists, composers, sign language interpreters and coordinators. All activities are provided free of charge to beneficiaries, who are based entirely in disadvantaged rural and/or low-income communities.


CTO provides a choral conductor to the rural West Coast community of Vredenburg, working on a weekly basis with 30 primary school choir in preparation for the annual school choir competitions. Our partner school in Vredenburg, Masiphathisane Primary School, won the 2019 Annual West District SASCE (South African Schools Choral Eistedfodd) and represented the district at the Provincial eliminations in May.


SASCE workshops in the Western Cape communities of Beaufort West and George took place for 200 public school and community choir leaders and conductors.


CTO engaged Standard Bank Young Artist Chuma Sopotela, choreographer Lulamile Nikani and music composer Bongani Magatyana to work with 33 learners in Philippi to create a youth musical, Ubizo (the Calling). This new production was based on themes of the myth of Orpheé et Eurydice, taken from Gluck’s opera which CTO will perform in September. These learners from Pandulwazi High School will attend this professional performance of Orpheé et Eurydice at the Baxter and meet the cast.


Six professional singers, a pianist and two drivers took to the road for three weeks on CTO’s 8th annual National Schools Tour. The music “boot camps” engaged 2000 learners from 80 public schools in Polokwane, Klerksdorp, Johannesburg, Durban, Mthatha, Queenstown, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, George and Cape Town as they prepared for the 2019 SASCE competition. It is the only classical music education programme of its kind on a national basis for choir competition education.


380 learners and NGO representatives attended two performances of the Bellini opera I Capuleti e I Montecchi (based on the story of Romeo and Juliet) at Artscape Opera House, including sign language interpretation for 40 hearing-impaired youth and adults, and special needs learners from Wynberg and Khayelitsha. CTO also brought its award-winning chorus to sing with 17 young learners at St Mary’s Primary in the Cape Flats, in a free choir concert for the Retreat community.


CTO partners with the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport and WECCMA to launch a choral festival for rural farm, community, church and school choirs. Altogether, 440 singers from four West Coast municipalities (Matzikama, Cederberg, Piketberg and Saldanha Bay) participate in the festival, which includes classes in fundraising, arts management and choral singing.


CTO celebrates Mandela Day by singing at the Douglas Murray Old Age Home, alongside our partner students brought from St Mary’s Primary in Retreat. On 20 July, the CTO chorus and the 98-member De Kuilen High School girls’ choir perform concert of Donizetti, Jenkins, Bouwer, Hofmeyr, isiXhosa traditional music and American spirituals such as Elijah Rock, Deep River and Battle of Jericho.


We will bring 450 learners and NGO representatives to performances of the Gluck opera Orphée et Eurydice at the Baxter Theatre, including sign language interpretation and audio description for 40 hearing- and sight-impaired and special needs learners from Athlone, Wynberg and Gugulethu.


Our staff will visit four schools in Khayelitsha, Retreat and Kuils River to teach about the wide variety of jobs available in the performing arts – from technical crew, grant writer and publicist to seamstress, singer, stage manager and choreographer.

Composer Sipumzo Lucwaba, scriptwriter and director Mhlanguli George and choreographer Kholisile Theo Ndindwa work with 60 high school learners at Chris Hani and Lathitha LSEN schools in Khayelitsha, writing and creating a new youth musical production on the 1976 Soweto protests and their intersection with the 2017 Fees Must Fall education protests.


We begin preparations for the 2020 SASCE competition with professional singers hosting workshops in Cape Town, drawing 200 learners from 15 schools for half-day teaching sessions at Artscape.


CTO implements a rigorous monitoring and evaluation programme for its YDE activities, with each participating learner at the start and end of each project. Outcomes from programmes with our 2018 partner schools have shown:

  • A 68% increase in learners’ positive assessment of their physical health
  • A 70% increase in learners’ knowledge about the breadth and diversity of performing arts career opportunities
  • A 65% increase in learners’ knowledge about and ability to identify South African opera artists
  • A 59% improvement in learners’ academic grades
  • A 59% improvement in learners’ levels of self-confidence
  • An 88% increase in learners’ understanding of adapting words and stories to music

CTO’s YDE Coordinators Masixole Makwetu ( and Madré Loubser ( can be contacted for any questions about our programmes and community impact.

“Thank you for sharing your resources with the Masiphathisane school community. Please be assured that your support has touched the lives of disadvataged school children who seldom get exposure and the opportunity to showcase their talents.”

R.H. Joorst, Acting-Principal, Masiphatisane Primary School (Vredenburg)


The Cape Town Opera Young Artist Training Programme is a unique training programme which gives graduate singers, with soloist potential, the opportunity to refine their technique and stage skills before launching professional careers. It is the only comprehensive advanced training curriculum of its kind for young graduate singers in South Africa.

Cape Town Opera engages between four and six Young Artists per year, for a paid two- to three-year training engagement. The main objective of the Young Artist programme is to strengthen the vocal and stage skills of promising young soloists and prepare them for a demanding professional career. The programme also offers skills development training in formal tuition settings, as well as experiential learning in rehearsal rooms and on stage with other performers. In addition to skills development, the programme offers personal mentorship and expert artistic guidance to members during this crucial intermittent phase of their careers. Some Young Artists choose to concurrently pursue their postgraduate studies at the UCT Opera School. Graduates of the programme include sopranos Golda Schultz, Nozuko Teto and Vuvu Mpofu; tenors Owen Metsileng and Lukhanyo Moyake, and baritone Mandla Mndebele.


Ané Pretorius
Mezzo Soprano

Brittany Smith


Each year, the University of Cape Town Opera School collaborates with Cape Town Opera to provide a graded performance opportunity for vocal and instrumental students pursuing music degrees. While these types of university/professional collaborations are normal across Europe, the States and beyond, there is no other opera company that provides this for the over 150 registered classical music students in South African universities. Over the past four years, these collaborations have included Verdi’s La Traviata, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi and newly commissioned South African operas. While the two institutions only collaborate on one opera per year due to budget restrictions, there is a strong need for two collaborative operas each year to provide an adequate amount of performance opportunity.

Professional conductors, designers and directors are engaged to work with students on these operas such as Maestros Kamal Khan and Daniel Montane, and directors Chuck Hudson and Claudia Blersch. In 2019, a visiting vocal coach/repetiteur position was initiated to bring skilled coaches to South Africa from Europe and the UK, helping local students perfect their vocal, language and stage techniques.
These collaborations have been key to launching opera careers for noteworthy South African soloists such as:

Soprano Pretty Yende and Tenor Sunnyboy Dladla, both born and raised in the rural town of Piet Retief in Mpumalanga province. This year, Pretty performs at Opera Bastille, the Barbican, Operanhaus Zurich, Deutsch Oper Berlin and Carnegie Hall; and Sunnyboy is at Theater Dortmund, Staatsopera Stuttgart and Oper Leipzig.

Pretty Yende

Sunnyboy Dladla

Tenor Levy Sekgapane hails from rural Kroonstad, 200 kms from Johannesburg. His 2019 engagements include the Glynbourne Festival, Opera National de Bordeaux, Latvian National Opera and the Rheingau Festival. Soprano Golda Schultz hails from Bloemfontein in the Free State, and will join the Metropolitan Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper and Opernhaus Zürich this year.

Levy Sekgapane

Golda Schultz

Durban-born Soprano Vuvu Mpofu sings this year at the Glyndebourne Festival, Bayerische Staatsoper Munchen, Opera North and Bergen National Opera. Baritone Mandla Mndebele graduated from UCT and CTO’s Young Artist programme,and joined Theater Dortmund as a staff soloist in 2018 making his premiere as Amonasro in Aida.

Vuvu Mpofu

Mandla Mndebele

Cape Town Opera thanks the very generous and committed support of the City of Cape Town, HCI Foundation, Judith Neilson Head Trust, MariaMarina Foundation, National Lotteries Commission, Patrons of Cape Town Opera, Rand Merchant Bank, Rotary E-Club Hanse D 1940, Förderverein Herzklopfen e.V. and Rotary Club Esslingen, Rotary Club Germering and Theater Dortmund, Germany, UK Friends of Cape Town Opera, Charitable Trust, University of Cape Town Opera School and Western Cape Government Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport for our education and training activities.