Black Opera Research Network Inaugural Event: Black Experiences in Opera

We are pleased to announce the launch of the Black Opera Research Network (BORN). BORN is an international research collaboration committed to exploring operatic activities, both historical and current, that complicate the perceived whiteness of opera as genre. For more information, visit our website at http://blackoperaresearch.net/.

To celebrate the launch of our network, we invite you to our inaugural event, an online panel discussion on the topic of ‘Black experiences in opera: perspectives from South Africa, Europe, and the US’

Time: Friday 21 August 2020, 11am EDT / 4pm BST / 5pm CEST.

Platform: Zoom

Moderator: Prof Naomi André, University of Michigan

Panelists: Louise Toppin (USA), Patrick Dailey (USA), Njabulo Madlala (South Africa), July Zuma (South Africa)

Please register for the event here.  Upon registration you will receive the Zoom link and password for this panel.

The conversation will run for an hour, followed by twenty minutes for audience exchange. Talking points may include, but won’t be limited to:

  • @operaisracist Instagram account, and similar recent interventions
  • intersections between race and gender hierarchies in operatic activity
  • the hidden labour of black opera scenographers, choreographers, librettists, and other largely unacknowledged creative agents
  • routes to participation and empowerment in South Africa and the USA

Brief bios of the panelists appear at the end of this message. To get involved with BORN, please email blackoperaresearchnetwork@gmail.com

We look forward to welcoming you to our first discussion!

The BORN team:

Prof Naomi André (University of Michigan)

Dr Innocentia Mhlambi (Wits University)

Dr Juliana M. Pistorius (University of Huddersfield)

Dr Hilde Roos (Stellenbosch University)

Allison R. Smith (Boston University)

Dr Donato Somma (Wits University)

Dr Kristen Turner (North Carolina State University)

Dr Lena van der Hoven (University of Bayreuth)

Panelists:

Louise Toppin is Professor of Music (Voice) at the University of Michigan. She is a noted performer, scholar and professor who specializes in the concert repertoire of African American composers. As the administrator of the George Shirley Vocal Competition and Videus (a non-profit organization that promotes the concert repertoire of African American and women composers), she encourages the performance and scholarship of African American compositions by students and scholars.

Patrick Dailey, countertenor, has earned awards and honors from the NAACP ACT-SO, Harlem Opera Theater Vocal Competition, and the National Classical Singer Magazine University Vocal Competition. He is an alumnus of Opera Saratoga’s Young Artist program and Opera New Jersey’s Emerging Artist Program. He performs widely across the USA and the UK, and conducts research on the construction of the black voice. Dailey is Adjunct Professor of Voice at Tennessee State University.

Njabulo Madlala was born in Durban, South Africa and trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Cardiff International Academy of Voice. He has been a Britten-Pears Young Artist, a Samling Artist and a young artist at the Ravinia International Festival. In 2010 he won the Kathleen Ferrier Award. As a baritone, he regularly performs with English National Opera, Royal Opera House, London Philharmonic Orchestra and further afield. He is a founding director of the Voices of South Africa International Opera Singing Competition.

July Zuma is a freelance lyric tenor from Durban, South Africa who has resided in Berlin since 2012.  He has performed in numerous international operatic stages and festivals. He graduated from the University of Cape Town Opera School under Prof. Angelo Gobbato and continued his Honors Studies at the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu in Barcelona with Prof. Eduardo Griminéz. He was Cape Town Opera’s Company Manager from 2005 to 2009 and was the Production Manager for Umculo Festival’s productions under Shirley Apthorp. July is also one of the Directors for Umthombo Arts Development based in the Eastern Cape and a Director in his own organization, Kwa-Mashu Community Empowerment Organization, based in Kwa-Mashu Township.

Symposium and Workshop: South African Opera Productions after the Apartheid

Venue: Universität Bayreuth

Date:   18th– 19th October 2018

Call for Papers:

Deadline: 15th August 2018

With the end of the Apartheid era, opera – stigmatized as ‘eurocentric opera’ – became a symbol of Western dominance/colonial imposition and seemed to be dead in South Africa.

But in fact, especially the so called ‘indigenous opera’ ‘flourishes’ as something of an anachronism and can be assessed as ‘black empowerment’ (Naomi André 2018).

The writing of a historiography of opera productions in South Africa although has academically just shortly started (Donato Somma 2016; Hilde Roos 2013, 2010; Martina Viljoen 2006) and is confronted with problems of different natures: political structures, post-colonization, globalization, unstable artistic standards and institutional relations.

The ‘bloom’ of opera presents itself neither through regular performances nor through crowded theatre halls. This is a consequence of the difficult political relations of artistic production in South Africa, which are among others characterized by a lack of funding and the re-organization of the Performing Arts Councils/ National Arts Councils. The existing significant multiple theatricalities of South Africa are thereby not having a platform to present themselves. The market pressure results often in overseas productions financing the few performances in the country itself. Thereby putting itself on risk to confirm with their opera productions transferred expectations of a South African identity rather than expressing an ‘authentic’ one.

This symposium will focus on South African Opera productions. Thereby the aim of the symposium is to represent the plurality of artistic concepts that deal in different ways with the multiple challenges of political and social transformation. How can opera in South Africa be involved in the process of societal transformation in a post-apartheid society? Which new artistic concepts are needed? How does themes for the libretti change? How did language, the style of composition and orchestration transform? Which new locations for performances are found to involve new audiences? How did the aesthetics change? And how are new media used either for a new aesthetic of performances, as with e.g. ‘Lamento’ (Umculo) or ‘U-Carmen eKhayelitsha’ (Isango Ensemble), or for marketing purposes?

For the first day of the symposium presentations shall focus on one opera productions. To ‘map’ the plurality of the field presentations are invited that cover one of the following topics.

  1. South African opera productions
  • Operas of different opera companies and composers
  • Different locations of opera performances (opera house, township, film)
  • Aesthetics of the opera opus itself
  • Analysis of compositions, libretti & performances

With Prof. Dr. Naomi André (University Michigan, USA), Dr. Donato Somma (University of Witwatersrand, SA) and Dr. Lena van der Hoven (among others) some experts in the field are invited. They will present on ‘Winnie – The Opera’ (Bongani Ndodana-Breen), ‘Princess Magogo’ (Opera Africa, Mzilikazi Khumalo), ‘Heart of Redness’ (Cape Town Opera, Neo Muyanga) and ‘Romeo’s Passion’ (Umculo, Cathy Milliken).

The workshop on the second day will cover transformation processes of Opera production in South Africa focusing on the following topics:

  • Opera institutions & opera companies
  • Finances/ Funding
  • Audiences
  • Marketing
  • Political impact

Abstracts (max. 2000 characters) for 20 minutes papers along with the technical requirements for the talk and a short CV with contact details should be sent by 15th August 2018 to Lena van der Hoven (Lena.van-der-Hoven@uni-bayreuth.de). Contributions from both the humanities and social sciences are welcome (Musicology, Theatre Studies, History, Cultural Studies, Sociology). Early career researchers in particular are encouraged to contribute. The chosen speakers will be informed by 31th August 2018 and the conference programme published online at http://www.prof-musikwissenschaft.uni-bayreuth.de/de/index.html .