Heavenly voice in City of Saints

Gillian McAinsh

THIS year’s winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music, 24-year-old soprano Kelebogile Boikanyo, has so far transported her audiences at the festival – and opera lovers have one last chance with the songbird at 7pm today.

The venue of the Rhodes Chapel of St Mary and all the Angels was a fitting choice for a young superstar with a heavenly voice in the City of Saints.

Her vocal recital of arias there on Friday spanned composers from Handel to Gershwin, and stretched across Spanish and Russian terrain with repetiteur Paul Ferreira at the piano and duets with fellow soprano Thembisile Twala.

“Grahamstown was an unknown destination for me and my thought was to enjoy my concerts,” she said before her show.

“As a young artist, it does not matter what field you are in. If you give the best at what you do and put in all your effort, good things will happen. Your work will give other people joy.”

Although she prefers opera and operetta, she does keep up with pop music: “Yes, I watch SA Idols – the talent amazes me!”

Her own idols, however, are drawn from the classical world: “Reneè Fleming is at the top of my list – a great soprano attached to the Met in New York.

“As a lyric soprano, I love arias and songs requiring emotion – perhaps I should say I would like pieces purely for showing off!”

And the arts festival programme chosen allowed her dramatic flair to emerge, with Musetta’s aria from La Bohème an audience favourite.

This was the first time the talented singer had performed at the festival which has seen other glorious sopranos such as Sibongile Khumalo, Bronwen Forbay and Sibongile Mngoma lead the way.

Pretoria-born Boikanyo won a scholarship to study at the Tshwane University of Technology when only 16.

She debuted professionally with the international South African superstar, tenor Johan Botha, in Opera Africa’s Opera Extravaganza in 2007, while still a student and since then has dazzled in many technically demanding roles both here and abroad.

“I am confident that with enough hard work, I will have a bright future.”

The judges for the Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Music 2012 saw not only Boikanyo’s passion and vocal talent but also a fine acting ability.

Conductor Richard Cock, one of the judges, praised her “wonderfully strong, clear voice” and was in the audience to support her Grahamstown debut.

The Young Artist winners feature on the main programme of the festival, and receive financial support for their participation as well as a cash prize.

It is a fantastic boost for a young career, and Boikanyo does not take it for granted.

“I do not expect any recognition but this award tells me that people acknowledge and appreciate good artistic work.”

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