South Africans - a huge majority of them living below the poverty line - sing opera. From her home base in Berlin, South African-born music journalist Shirley Apthorp watched the evolution of post-Apartheid South African opera, and decided to found an organisation bringing together European know-how with South African talent and insight.
Since 2010, Umculo has produced ten operas in, with, and for South Africa’s disadvantaged communities, using old and new music to tackle such social issues as gender-based violence, crime, corruption and poverty. Social outcomes show growing success, while Umculo’s work wins consistent acclaim for its artistic achievements and courage.
European houses can learn from South Africa’s fresh take on historic forms, while South Africa’s underserved communities are quick to accept opera as a necessity, not a luxury; the stage is a safe space to address burning issues. Umculo’s 2019 production “The Gift” will be created by an all-female team from Langa, near Cape Town, addressing the controversial topic of “corrective” rape.