Désirée Talbot

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TALBOT, Désirée (1926- ) [1] is a South African opera soprano, academic and one of the founding members of the UCT Opera Company.


Désirée Talbot, born in Cape Town in 1926, pursued an active singing career in South Africa but also has a long academic career to her credit. After completing a B. Mus. at UCT, majoring in piano, she started as a music teacher and pianist, and became a lecturer in singing and piano at the South African College of Music, Cape Town, in 1954.

Her interests in singing were aroused ever since her student years at UCT. Inspired by the dynamic Prof. Erik Chisholm, she developed a zeal for the opera stage, which was intensified by the second major influence in her operatic career, Gregorio Fiasconaro, head of the Opera School.


Highlights early in her career were concerts in the London Wigmore Hall and a tour of the UCT Opera Company to Great Britain and Scotland in 1956, where she sang in the first British stage performance of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Although she was offered numerous singing opportunities in London in the late fifties, she opted to return to South Africa. In 1960 she received a bursary for advanced study in Italy from the Italian Government, studying with Gina Cigna in Milan.

After lecturing singing at the Stellenbosch Conservatoire between 1962 and 1965, she was appointed Senior Lecturer in Singing at the UCT College of Music in 1967, and promoted to Associate Professor in 1979, lecturing in voice training, performing literature and repertoire of singing teaching as well as vocal teaching method. In 1984/85 she was appointed Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Music at UCT and Deputy Acting Director of the Faculty of Music, UCT. After her retirement she taught part-time at UCT until the end of 1994. Among her students who have an active singing career are the tenors Sidwill Hartman, Nicola Cencherle and George Mughovhani.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Throughout her career, she was the leading soprano in the UCT Opera Company, with more than five hundred performances of about thirty roles in twenty-eight operas to her credit. She was also heard in oratorio, recitals and radio broadcasts, and has sung all over South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, England Scotland and Italy. Her opera repertoire includes the title roles in Madama Butterfly and Tosca, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Desdemona in Otello, Mimì in La bohème. She played Inghean Og in Erik Chisholm's opera The Inland Woman at the Little Theatre in 1953.

She retired from active singing in 1978 but returned to the stage of the Nico Malan Theatre in 1982 to sing Mamita in Gigi. Désirée Talbot also distinguished herself as writer by documenting her opera experience at the College of Music in the book For the love of singing and as the ghost writer for the biography of Gregorio Fiasconaro, I’d do it again.


Alexandra Xenia Sabina Mossolow[2]. 2003. The career of South African soprano Nellie du Toit, born 1929. Unpublished Masters thesis. University of Stellenbosch.[3]

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