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Thandolwethu Mamba ‘20: “Si Parla, Si Canta” Opera Program

Project Date:
Project Date: Summer 2020

"Si Parla, Si Canta" is a young artist development program held in Arona, Italy which focuses on the Italian language and the Italian style of singing. I partook in this program in the summer of 2019 and was invited to return for the 2020 edition.

About the Project

Thandolwethu with his new teacher, Professor Josephson.
Thandolwethu with his new teacher, Professor Josephson.

Unable to attend the summer program, I decided to use the funds to support the activities I did to prepare myself as I made the transition to graduate school for a Master’s in Classical Vocal Performance.

Firstly, I used the funds to purchase scores for the eight pieces that my teacher in graduate school, Kim Josephson, assigned me to learn over the summer. Specifically, these were 4 Italian arias, 2 French arias, a Spanish Zarzuela aria, and a German aria. To facilitate the learning process, I asked my vocal coach in my voice studio at Duke, David Heid, to make rehearsal tracks for me.

Additionally, I used some of the funds to cover my moving costs from Durham to Miami, where my graduate school is located. I rented a car big enough to fit all my things and asked a friend to drive me.

To further assist my transition to graduate school, I quickly realized that I had to purchase actual vocal scores for several operas, vocal anthologies for arias and art songs, as well as music for the two song cycles I’m working on. This was after the opera director in my program pointed out to me that the free scores online often have discrepancies that affect the music, doing an injustice to the composer’s original work.

In summary, I received funding to help build my professional career by developing my repertoire and acquiring professional-level materials to be able to do what I do. As someone who started on the path to becoming a professional opera singer fairly late, I still have a lot of catching up to do and that includes having the proper materials and not relying on free downloads from the internet.

Although I wasn’t able to replicate the experience I would’ve received in Arona in the “Si Parla, Si Canta” program, I made sure to try and develop my artistry on my own by learning new repertoire by picking up new arias and songs that I could use for future auditions and competitions to advance my budding career even further. Furthermore, the full opera vocal scores allow me to quickly have access to the material I need when undertaking a new entire role to learn for a young artist program, performance opportunity, or simply bolstering my resume as a young opera singer.

Reflecting on Art Amidst Covid-19

Without the opportunities to get together with other musicians and perform, the Benenson Award helped me focus on self-development by having the means to obtain the materials necessary to self-study new pieces and roles. During the quarantine imposed by COVID-19 I focused on translating pieces, learning melodies, acquiring accompaniment recordings, to stay engaged with my art and grow as a singer and artist. It helped me boost my confidence as I began my post-graduate career in a new place.