Emma Renzi

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Emma Renzi (1926-) was an opera singer and teacher.


Born Emmarentia Scheepers in Heidelberg, Transvaal, in 1926, matriculating from the high school there in 1943. She received her first vocal training from Esther Mentz in Johannesburg before enrolling at the South African College of Music in Cape Town 1943 for a B. Mus. degree, completing it in 1947. In the following yeear she went to London to further her studies Joan Cross at the National Opera School and started touring with the Carl Rosa Opera Company in 1951.

Renzi continued her studies in 1954 under Roy Henderson while singing with the English Opera Group. She shared the second prize with Teresa Berganza at the International Singing Competition in Genève in 1956 and became the first South African to sing at the Edinburgh Festival in 1957. In 1958 she continued her training in Catania, Sicily under maestro Santonocito, performing as lyric-dramatic soprano. From 1961 to 1962 she sang dramatic roles in Karlsruhe, Germany. Based in Milan since 1963 and singing in many Italian theatres, she started singing under the name Emma Renzi.

Renzi made her debut at La Scala in the role of Abigail in Nabucco, in 1966, substituting Elena Suliotis. She was not only the first South African singer ever to sing at La Scala, but also the first to make a career in Italy. In the sixties and seventies, she performed in major European cities as well as the United States and South America, inter alia appearing in Portugal (1967), Turkey (1967), Joego-Slawië and the USA (1968), Frankryk en Suid-Amerika (1969), Spain (1970), South Africa (1971) and America once more (1976).

In 1978 she concluded her Italian period, returning to South Africa in 1979.

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

She made intermittent appearances in opera in South Africa in 1963 (Tosca), 1964 (Il trovatore), 1965 and 1966 (Nabucco). Emma Renzi participated in the opening productions of two of the major new theatres in South Africa, singing "Amelia" in Un ballo in maschera for the opening of the Civic Theatre in Johannesburg in 1962 and excerpts from Aida in Applause - the opening production of the State Theatre in Pretoria in 1981. She had also been due to perform in Aida for the opening of the Nico Malan Theatre in Cape Town in 1971, but fell ill at the time.

With her return to the country in 1979, she moved into teaching, becoming the first director of the Opera Centre of the newly founded Music School of the University of the Witwatersrand in that year, before accepting the post as director of the Opera School of the Pretoria Technikon in 1980. From 1992 to 1994 she was the Italian voice coach for PACT Opera and from 1992 onwards also a senior lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand.



Alexandra Xenia Sabina Mossolow[1]. 2003. The career of South African soprano Nellie du Toit, born 1929. Unpublished Masters thesis. University of Stellenbosch.[2]

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