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RCM Singers Zwakele Tshabalala, Pumeza Matshikiza and Simon Shibambu will perform in Porgy and Bess

RCM students and alumni star in Theater an der Wien's Porgy and Bess

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Three RCM singers are to perform lead roles in a production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in Vienna this October. RCM Opera Studio alumnus Simon Shibambu will sing Porgy, while alumna Pumeza Matshikiza takes on Bess/Serena and current student Zwakele Tshabalala sings Sportin’ Life.

The production is directed by South African director Matthew Wild and will premiere at the historic Theater an der Wien on Wednesday 14 October, running throughout the month to an in-person socially distanced audience.

South African bass Simon Shibambu studied at the RCM between 2014-2016 with Graeme Broadbent, as an ABRSM scholar. In 2016 he participated in the Young Singers Project at the Salzburg Festival and between 2016-2018 he was a Jette Parker Young Artist for The Royal Opera, performing Pietro (Simon Boccanegra) and Doctor Grenvil (La traviata) in the 2018/19 season. His operatic repertory also includes Sarastro and Speaker of the Temple (Die Zauberflöte), Leporello (Don Giovanni) and Méphistophélès (Faust). Concert repertory includes Mozart’s Requiem, Rossini’s Petite Messe solennelle, Puccini’s Messa and Verdi’s Requiem.

Described as ‘one of today’s most exciting new operatic voices’ by The Independent, South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza studied at the RCM between 2004-2007. She was a member of the Jette Parker Young Artists’ Programme for The Royal Opera from 2007-2009, performing Blumenmädchen (Parsifal), Sandmann (Hänsel und Gretel) and Tebaldo (Don Carlo), conducted by Antonio Pappano. In 2010 she was awarded 1st Prize in the Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition and became an Associate Artist of the Classical Opera Company. As a five-year ensemble member of the Staatsoper Stuttgart, Pumeza has appeared as Micaëla (Carmen), Mimì (La bohème), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Ännchen (Der Freischütz), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), and Pamina (Die Zauberflöte).

Zwakele Tshablala is a Christopher Hogwood Scholar supported by the Ann Driver Trust Scholarship and International Students House, currently studying for a Master of Performance with Tim Evans-Jones. Born in South Africa, Zwakele was a member of the South African Youth Choir in 2009, before joining the South African College of Music in 2012 to study with Virginia Davids and Khamal Khan. In 2016, Zwakele won The Schock Foundation Prize for Singing at the University of Cape Town. In May 2019 he won critical acclaim for the role of Hot Biscuit Slim in English National Opera’s Paul Bunyan at Alexandra Palace.

Nicholas Sears, RCM Head of Vocal & Opera, comments: ‘To witness three current and former RCM singers performing principal roles in Porgy and Bess this autumn is a remarkable testament to their individual and exceptional talent, and to all those who have helped them to flourish and develop throughout their journey. In bocca al lupo!’

Find out more about the RCM Opera Studio on the RCM website.