South African soprano Noluvuyiso Mpofu is making history by becoming the first ever non-British recipient of the prestigious John Christie Award for most promising singer of the year.

The award, offered by renowned Sussex-based opera house Glyndebourne, is a £15 000 (R275 517) scholarship. This will help support and further the careers of young artists in the Glyndebourne festival company.

Mpofu is a University of Cape Town (UCT) opera school graduate and decorated singer. She placed third at the Operalia Competition in 2015, and won second place at the Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in 2016. She has performed on international stages, such as the Rossini Festival in Italy and played the role of First Nymph in Rusalka at the 2019 Glyndebourne Festival.

Despite experiencing early success, her journey has not always been easy. “After I won second place in the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in 2016, I hoped for offers and went for auditions, but to no avail. I was told my voice was difficult to place as I can manage a variety of roles in the lyrical soprano register, and I think there was a preference for a more definite, limited range. I wondered, ‘what next?’. I had no clear direction at that time,” Mpofu told the Weekend Argus.

A chance audition turned things around for Mpofu. “Then out of the blue came the chance of auditioning in Europe through funds made available by the 2017 Nedbank Campaign and I was accepted for the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, Italy. I appeared in Il Viaggio a Reims, which fortunately I knew well as we’d done it at the opera school here. At the end of that year [2017] I had some luck with other auditions and was accepted to sing Cunégonde in Candide with Bergen Opera. Then came my chance to participate in the Glyndebourne Opera Festival thanks to Pol Moe of the Bayerische Staatsoper,” she added.

Mpofu will return to Glyndebourne in their autumn tour as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto.

Picture: Creative Feel

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