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Zandile Mzazi: South Africa’s latest opera sensation

By Servan Ahougnon / September 28, 2016

“I want the world to know me by my music, my voice, my talent. I don’t want to be known in any other way than that.”

With a piano or Orchestra, Zandile Mzazi, wows both local and international audiences with her beautiful voice. This opera singer has sung in many operas in South Africa with the Cape Town Opera and Opera Africa. Her recent performance was that of Zinzi Mandela in “Madiba; The African Opera”.

Many of her solo work has been done overseas with recitals in New York, Vienna, Paris, Seychelles, Zaragoza and Martinique.

Early Life

Zandile Mzazi, was born in 1984 in the rural town of Elliot in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, to a musical family. Her mother was a music conductor.

She began her music career in 2000 with her first opera solo, “Voices of Spring”, which she sang in a girls’ choir in Kwa-Komani Comprehensive School in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape where she started school.

My mother was my conductor when I sang in the school choir. She lay the foundation for my musical development. She has been my greatest inspiration because I believe that had I not been nurtured by her when I was still in my teens, I wouldn’t have been singing today. Maybe people would not even know that I exist. So, it’s all because of her, her patience, her love and support.

In 2001, she sang summertime from Porgy and Bess while at the same school where she came out the best out of all the schools competing in the Eastern Cape. Zandile later went on to represent the province in a national competition and won the national championships along with an FNB scholarship to study music at the University of Cape Town.

She auditioned for the UCT College of Music in 2002 and was accepted for a four year programme.

In her second year at UCT, she won a scholarship from the New York-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation where she was selected with another soloist to represent the UCT School of Music in America.

International Career

Young people are interesting in a sense that, you hum something to them even before you give them the music and already they pick it up. They sing with a natural voice, they sing with so much ease because singing comes from a very honest place.

Attracted to the “sadness and drama” of opera, she believes she was “on this Earth to make a noise” but her sweet soprano voice has taken her as far as the great concert halls of Rome, Vienna, London, New York, where she has performed great classic opera pieces.

In 2004, Zandile performed at the National Choir Olympics in Germany and in 2007, Post Graduate Honours in Music and Performances with distinction.

She participated in the Mirella Freni Master Class at the Belcanto Academy in 2011 and later attended the the OC Ars Vocalis Academy’s Summer Program in Rome in 2015.

Mzazi has sang at the late Nelson Mandela’s birthday and for former President Thabo Mbeki. She performed for over 57 Heads of States at the “2015 The Year of China” in South Africa.

Her first International victory was in Vienna where she competed with some of the best opera talent in the world. She won the first prize in the LJUBA WELITSCH International Singing Contest in July 2016. And was titled the best Salome in the portrayal of this latter day opera singer.

I cannot say I have got a big voice; my tone is a little bit dark. Whenever I perform and I hear my sound … it shocks me, because it is really incredible that I am so blessed with this instrument

My first International victory came after taking a break from my hectic music schedule to spend time with my family and reconnect with friends and relatives. I staged a Sunday evening warm up concert before heading to Vienna where I competed with some of the best opera talent in the world. I won first prize in the LJUBA WELITSCH International Singing Contest in July 2016. I was crowned the best Salome in the portrayal of this latter day opera singer. I came back a proud South African with my certificate, prize and trophy.

“I cannot say I have got a big voice; my tone is a little bit dark. Whenever I perform and I hear my sound … it shocks me, because it is really incredible that I am so blessed with this instrument,” said Mzazi.

About the author

Servan Ahougnon

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