Masabane Cecelia Rangwanasha a South African soprano who won the hearts of global music fans during a UK singing competition

By Edward Tsumele

South African soprano Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha once again demonstrated the fact that South African artistic talent is one of the best in the world.

Thesoprano , a graduate of the Tshwane University of Technology  and the Uiniversity of Cape Town, sang her way into the hearts, minds and imagination of the judges of the BBC Cardiff Singer Of The World 2021 competition on Thursday, 17 June, 2021, taking the number 1 position.

Her triump in far away UK should lighten up the face of the South African creative sector, whose confidence has been left battered and scarred by a long drought of opportunities brought by the World pandemic, Covid-19, as the country has been in various lockdowns levels since March 2020. Not much has since changed for the creative sector as we are now back into level 3, a level that the country entered during the First wave in 2020, but was recently declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa due to the resurgence of infections since the Third Wave started two week ago.

Rangwanasha’s triumph though is currently being celebrated across South Africa and beyond, bringing the much needed reief from the burden of the effects of the Third Wave in the country.

“Hey TUT Fam!. We congratulate Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha, an alumna of the Department of Performing Arts (Vocal Arts), who keeps on making her Alma mater proud on world stages. She clinched victory as the Song Prize winner of the 2021 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.The talented 27-year-old soprano dazzled the judges in the UK competition with performances of Schubert’s famous Lied Gretchen am Spinnrade and Tyamzashe’s Isithandwa Sam, a South African song performed in in the Xhosa language,” TUT said in a stamen over the weekend.

Rangwanasha who holds a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) Degree from Tshwane University of technology,, majoring in voice and opera put up a spectacular performance that was warmly received by a global audience as it was screened live on BBC.

We’ve been treated to some outstanding performances of song repertoire from all of the finalists this evening. It’s inspiring to know that the future of this great art form is secured with so much talent clearly emerging. Sadly there could only be one winner, and Masabane performed with such assured technique and emotional power that the jury was unanimous in naming her the winner.”— John Gilhooly, Wigmore Hall’s Artistic & Executive Director, and Chair of the Judges.

The 27 year-old soprano Rangwanasha was named the winner of the Song Prize at BBC Cardiff Singer Of The World 2021. The announcement was made during the broadcast of the competition’s Song Prize Final on BBC Two Wales and BBC Radio 3 at 7.30pm on Thursday 17 June, and at 9.45pm on BBC Four. 

The event, was presented by Petroc Trelawny with special guest mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly on TV, and Andrew McGregor and soprano Rebecca Evans on BBC Radio 3, took place at St David’s Hall, in the Welsh capital, without an audience in attendance and in strict compliance with the latest health and safety government guidelines regarding Covid-19, according to a statement from the organisers.

Who is  Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha

Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha started singing at school and church at an early age. She completed her Postgraduate Diploma at the University of Cape Town, studying with Virginia Davids, and took a BTech in Vocal Art (Performance) with Kiewiet Pali at Tshwane University of Technology.

In London, she was a member of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme in the 2019/20 Season. Competition successes include the Audience Prize and two special prizes in the 2019 Hans Gabor Belvedere Competition; winner of the UNISA Competition; First Prize in the Phillip H Moore Music Competition, and First Prize and Best South African Song (final 2017, semi-final 2018) in the ATKV Singing Competition.

In 2019, she sang soprano solo in Verdi‘s Requiem with Oude Libertas choir in Stellenbosch, and was nominated Best Singer in the opera category for Woordfees 2019. She was awarded Second Prize in Muzicanto in Cape Town, an award from the Schock Philips Foundation at UCT. In autumn 2021 she will join the ensemble of Bern Staatsoper for two years.

The Song Prize competition showcased the voices of 14 of the BBC Cardiff Singer Of The World 2021 contestants in performances of Lieder and art songs – partnered by internationally-renowned pianists Llŷr Williams and Simon Lepper – a more intimate repertoire than in the Main Prize, where they are accompanied by an orchestra. Following four rounds which took place at the Dora Stoutzker Hall of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Song Prize Final featured performances by Malagasy baritone Michael Arivony; Austrian soprano Christina Gansch; Welsh soprano Sarah Gilford; and Republic of Korea baritone Gihoon Kim.

Rangwanasha impressed the judging panel, chaired by Wigmore Hall’s Artistic and Executive Director John Gilhooly, along with celebrated classical singers US soprano Roberta Alexander and Welsh bass-baritone Neal Davies – himself the winner of the Song Prize in 1991- with performances of Schubert’s Gretchen am Spinnrade – D118; BPJ Tyamzashe’s song in the Xhosa language Isithandwa Sam; Lizst’s Die Lorelei – S273; and Betty Jackson King’s, Ride Up In The Chariot.

John Gilhooly says: “We have been treated to some outstanding performances of song repertoire from all of the BBC Cardiff Singer Of The World Song Prize finalists this evening. It’s inspiring to know that the future of this great art form is secured with so much talent clearly emerging-Additional reporting by the BBC.

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