South African opera star sings for the queen

22 March 2016

The Pretoria-born opera singer, Simphiwe Simon Shibambu, performed a dazzling version of the evocative isiXhosa Click Song in front of Queen Elizabeth II at a Celebration of the Commonwealth service held in London’s Westminster Abbey on 17 March 2016.

The Commonwealth service is the UK’s largest multi-faith celebration, and Shibambu, the 28-year-old bass-baritone, was the sole South African representative at the event.

His performance of the Click Song, also known as Qongqothwane, the traditional isiXhosa song customarily sung at weddings to bring about good fortune, was a moving experience for the audience, including the queen, who took a moment after the performance to talk to Shibambu.

Shibambu has been singing since he was young, and began his love of opera in high school. “Singing opera is not only about your voice; it’s about many other things, like connecting with the music, understanding what the composer wants in the music, acting and putting a lot of effort into your work,” he writes on his website.

Following an undergraduate degree in vocal arts at Tshwane University of Technology, Shibambu moved to London to study at the Royal College of Music for a Master’s in vocal performance and opera. He has won several international competitions along the way.

Shibambu is also part of the Young Singers Project for the Salzburg Festival 2016 in Austria, which brings together new and exciting opera singers from around the world to add new life to the opera format.

He won first prize in the Amazwi Omzansi Africa national opera singing competition in Durban in 2013; in 2015, he won first prize and the audience choice award at the Clonter Opera singing competition in the UK.

He has also featured in several opera productions in London and at home, including key performances in Mozart’s Die Zauberflӧte and Don Giovanni, as well as in Gounod’s Faust.

In a review of his latest performance in Handel’s Ariodante this month, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper wrote: “(Shibambu) sang the (part of) King with authority, anguish and a huge, resonant tone.”

Source: SA People