Pumeza Matshikiza—Operatic Cinderella Story
Pumeza Matshikiza was brought up in the euphemistically named townships of South Africa. Anyone who can rise to the heights of being an opera singer in Stuttgart and London from the depths of a township in Cape Town deserves our devoted admiration.
Pumeza has seen extreme poverty living with her mother and relatives in various cities of South Africa. Studying in Cape Town’s Homba Public Primary School she could not have imagined the success she has seen as an operatic soprano.
Today she gets to record at the Abbey Road studios made famous by the Beatles. She has signed a contract with Decca which has played host to Opera greats like Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti.
She is now 34, which is very young for an opera singer. An entire lifetime of fame and grandeur lies ahead of her. She is already famous the world over and has a three year contract with the Stuttgart State Opera. It is a big rise from singing in the local church choir in South Africa. Her interest in the opera arose after listening to famous arias on the radio. She wanted to be a part of this genre of singing.
A lucky break and a ticket to London found her winning a full scholarship to the Royal College of Music. She eventually performed at London’s Royal Opera House. The present recording with Decca contains music by Mozart and Puccini. It also contains South African folk songs to the accompaniment of The African Children’s Choir. The high point of the recording is her rendering to song of the Nelson Mandela favourite ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley.
The Apartheid era of her childhood is a long distance away on the southern tip of Africa. She loves her success in Europe but is sometimes homesick for her humble beginnings in South Africa. She wishes the country will do more for the downtrodden people. That longing and nostalgia comes through in her music.