South African Opera and Globalisation


South African Opera and Globalisation (1994-2022)

The online symposium and workshop is dedicated to the developments of the opera market in South Africa since democratisation, with a special focus on globalisation. It follows up on the symposium South African Opera Productions after the Apartheid at the University of Bayreuth in 2018.

In recent decades, not only have opera singers and directors made careers as individuals outside South Africa, but entire opera productions and concert formats have also toured successfully in the Global West. From a structural point of view the following questions are open to discussion: What new trends are emerging in consequence of the pandemic? Have digital formats changed the market in South Africa and outside South Africa? Are opera singers and opera companies now even more reliant than before on performing outside South Africa as cultural funding has dried up, or is this trend diminishing? And what role do universities play today as performance venues for opera in South Africa? Notwithstanding the above the international opera industry has been going through numerous transformation processes (institutionally and aesthetically) for some years now due to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Are these processes comparable to South Africa or do we find other thematic focuses and motivations for transformation in South Africa? Is Blackness also being renegotiated in South Africa through the #BlackLivesMatter movement? Have issues of democracy become even more prominent in opera productions in recent years? How is South African identity recently being negotiated in South African operas? 

As a Kick-off to the symposium and workshop you are invited to a hybrid event with South African choreographer Jessica Nupen. She will present her Dance|Rap|Opera The Nose (2021). Based on a short story by Nikolai Gogol, the current political and societal situation in South Africa is addressed. The questions under discussion are: Which position can opera take up in South African society? What influence can artistic production exert globally on postcolonial discourses? Additionally, the fascinating process of transformation of media in the production, which was developed during the pandemic and evolved from a live production to a film and then a hybrid installation, will be analysed based on substantial archival film footage. We will discuss how this process of transformation influences the aesthetic and the genre.


Thursday, 12th May 2022
18.30: Panel Discussion with Jessica Nupen about her Dance|Rap|Opera The Nose (2021)

Friday, 13th May 2022
10.00: Welcome and Introduction
10.15-12.00: Panel 1: Opera Productions in and outside of South Africa

  • Dr. Melissa Gerber (University of Johannesburg, South Africa): Opera in Afrikaans, Again, or, Re-making a Genre in South Africa: The Cases of Poskantoor (2014) and Die Vertrek (2019)
  • Dr. Andrew Holden (Oxford Brookes University, UK) and Alessandro Talevi: Emerging from the Forest: Cape Town Opera’s Pandemic Hänsel and Gretel
  • Dr. Robert Fokkens (Cardiff University, UK): Introducing Bhekizizwe: Models and Approaches for Creating New Opera in South Africa and Beyond

12.30-13.30: Panel 2: Mapping the Working Situation of South African Opera Singers

  • M.A. Sakhiseni Joseph Yende (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa): A Perspective of Young Opera Graduates on their Working Situation in South African Opera Industry
  • B.A. Setsoane Jeannette Ntseki (University of Cape Town, South Africa): Employment in the South African Opera Industry: In search of Constructive Models to Create Sustainable Job Opportunities for Opera Singers/Musicians

13.30-14.30:  Panel 3: The South African Opera Voice in Discourse

  • Prof. Dr. Johann Buis (McGill University, Canada): Midas Touch Voice Teacher: The Making of International Opera Superstars in Post-Apartheid South Africa
  • M.A. Joshua Tolulope David (University of Toronto, Canada): More Than Voices: An Analysis of Vocal Models in Operatic Tradition in Africa

15.30-17.00: Panel 4: Developments of the South African Opera Landscape

  • Dr. Tinus Spies (University of Pretoria): The Gauteng Opera Scene 2012-2022: A Performer’s Perspective
  • Prof. Dr. Lena van der Hoven (Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, University of Bern): The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Pre-Existing Precarity of South Africa’s Opera Scene
  • Dr. Donato Somma (Witwatersrand University, South Africa): The Changing Appetites for Opera in Post-Apartheid SA 

17.00-17.30: Final Discussion

Please register for the panel discussion on the 12th May as well as for the symposium on the 13th May by contacting and you will receive an email with the Zoom-link for the event.

Timezone: MESZ, UTC + 2h