Cape Town’s Opera School needs your help

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It was with great pleasure and pride that we read your article on Pumeza Matshikiza and her opening performance at the Commonwealth Games (Puccini and Swahili, G2, 28 July). As you point out, Pumeza is a graduate of our Opera School at the University of Cape Town. She – along with many others such as Pretty Yende and Musa Ngqungwana – is literally changing the face of opera. Not only here in South Africa, but globally, they are giving a new relevance and meaning to opera against the outdated perception of it as a Eurocentric elitist artform. Opera taps into a rich tradition of choral music in our country which not only has huge transformative potential, but which is providing unparalleled opportunities for many talented young people from our townships to reshape their lives. The impact of this on their families and communities is profound.

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But our Opera School is vulnerable. For the past decade, it has received generous funding from an international donor, making it possible for us to unearth such exceptional talent. However, as of the end of 2014, we will no longer be receiving this international funding. We are in the midst of a fundraising drive to secure the immediate sustainability of the school and its long-term future. We have a commitment from an international funder of a challenge grant of $500,000, contingent on us raising the matching amount. We want to put all these funds into an endowment and use the return on this to fund bursaries and scholarships for talented, historically disadvantaged opera students like Pumeza. May I urge your readers to support our campaign? Further information about it and about our school is readily available from UCT’s alumni department, from the UCT Trust in the UK, or on the Opera School’s Facebook page.

Mili Thakur