University of Cape Town Opera Company

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The University of Cape Town Opera Company was the affiliated performance company of the University of Cape Town Opera School.

Purpose and History

Established in 1951.


The Opera School was prolific in staging opera performances, and within its first decadee, the students had performed in forty different operas in 650 performances in the Little Theatre, with Erik Chisholm as conductor of the University Orchestra. This company also travelled the countryside to towns like Swellendam, Riversdale, King William’s Town, Grahamstown, Cradock, Graaff-Reinet, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Pretoria, and and Namibia and the former Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Works performed included Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflöte and Don Giovanni, Puccini’s Tosca and Turandot, Verdi’s Falstaff, and Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia. Among the other Italian works staged were Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Bellini’s La sonnambula, Puccini’s La bohème, and in the early years Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice and Iphegenia in Tauris. Other works included Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel. A number of English-language operas were performed, especially the works of Menotti, including The Telephone, The Medium and The Consul.

The UCT Opera Company also performed operas in Afrikaans, and Afrikaans operas were composed for this company.

Productions included:

1952: Dark Sonnet, Tafelberg se Kleed ("Table Mountain’s Cloth"), performed in Afrikaans; on tour (April): Suor Angelica, La serva padrona, The Telephone and The Medium.

1953: The Inland Woman

1956/1957: Tour to London and Glasgow with Bartok's opera Bluebeard, with Desiree Talbot as Judith and Gregorio Fiasconaro as Duke Bluebeard at Chisholm's Festival of South African Music and Musicians performed by College of Music staff and students.

1960: Die Zauberflöte in Afrikaans (at the Union Festival in Bloemfontein)

1961: Silas Marner

1962: The Portuguese Inn, La serva padrona

1963: Don Pasquale in Afrikaans; Tosca

1964: Otello

1965: Otello; Turandot

1973: The Contract

1975: Die Noodsein

Other prodoctions performed in Afrikaans include:


Wayne Muller. 2018. A reception history of opera in Cape Town: Tracing the development of a distinctly South African operatic aesthetic (1985–2015). Unpublished PhD thesis.

Sjoerd Alkema. 2012. "Conductors of the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra, 1914-1965: a historical perspective". University of Cape Town. Unpublished PhD thesis.

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