THE BRIDGE PROJECT: SOUTH AFRICA - GERMANY COOPERATION IMFJ - HfMT COLOGNE
2012, a highly successful project of cultural exchange began in South Africa. The ambitious International Mozart Festival Johannesburg ( IMFJ - management team Richard Cock and Florian Uhlig ) started a courageous promotion of young talents with a nationwide invitation to young classical singers with the aim of introducing the great South African singing culture internationally and opening the door to a worldwide career
for highly gifted vocalists. I was very honored to be hired as a lecturer for the annual master classes in January/February (with - after strict preselection - a maximum of 8-9 participants).
Already after the first master class held by me in Pretoria, I was able to win the University of Music and Dance Cologne (HfMT Cologne) as a European cooperation partner. A maximum of 2 (one-time at the start in 2012 3) course participants were proposed for a scholarship after a teaching week and a gala final concert by Robert Cock, Florian Uhlig and me, then studied in my Cologne university class, graduated with diploma, master's degree, usually also with concert exams and began auditions with agents, theaters and quite successful competition appearances during their studies.
A total of 9 scholarship holders ( 4 female singers / 3 sopranos, 1 mezzo), 5 male singers / 4 tenors, 1 baritone) have so far participated in the funding program, were awarded with top marks in their university degrees and have already been important protagonists in concerts and opera productions of the university.
To this day, the scholarship holders won 6 prizes at international competitions; the dramatic soprano Andiswa Makana made a guest appearance as Tosca in Schwerin, Theater Hagen and Theater Kaiserslautern,
the mezzo-soprano Abongile Fumba sang a world premiere at Beethovenfest Bonn and is currently engaged at the Tiroler Landestheater Innsbruck; one of the lyrical tenors, Siyabonga Maqungo, was already committed
to the Staatsoper Berlin last season and made his debut at the Bayreuth Festival this year; his young colleague Katleho Mokhoabane was admitted to the studio ensemble of the Vienna State Opera.
The baritone Eddi Mofokeng is expanding his repertoire at Theater Hildesheim and is currently preparing several auditions (including at the Volksoper Wien).
After a short corona-related break, the scholarship program will be relocated to the Musikhochschule Lübeck this year under the leadership of Professor Florian Uhlig, who is teaching there as professor for Piano.
The reason for this relocation is, among other things, the renewed generous sponsoring by the Lübeck large industrial Dräger, who was already "birth helper“ at the start of the program in 2012 with a similarly high level of support.
It can therefore be said without exaggeration that this attempt at a cultural-musical bridge has succeeded exemplary and sustainably and has emerged as a win-win situation for both continents. It is also striking how much the presence of South African singers in Europe has increased overall. Without wanting to maintain a direct causal context here: groundbreaking and liberating, the bridging - project, here as well as there, has perhaps acted as a kind of model of international cultural cooperation of the future that takes globalization into account in the best sense.
Firmly established programs such as Erasmus in the European area are by no means suppressed or even superfluous, but the worldwide opening of cultural work, building bridges from an independent cultural tradition to an equally independent one in a distant cultural circle, is taking one or more steps forward in the sense of a global cultural initiative. The more the individual nations struggle for their identity as a counter-model to leveling globalization, the more important is the vision of a cultural dialogue transcending borders in all areas.
Let's take a quick look back at the concrete singer exchange and the selection criteria that have made the selection process briefly described above so successful.
Vocal potential and musical design intensity are of course the first prerequisite, but also learning pace, learning ability, concentration, memory and diligence. The overall personality must be up to the international stage challenges. In order to be able to judge this, the jurors need the ability of functional listening as well as a more precise knowledge of the international singer standard, i.e. pedagogical routine and professional stage and panel experience should be given as much as possible.
A multiple assessment in the assessment of artistic charisma and psychological resilience of applicants also proves to be very useful.
Therefore, the interaction of a pianist and song accompanist ( Florian Uhlig), a conductor with a wealth of experience ( Richard Cock ) and me, a singer with long international stage experience and a singing professorship at the Cologne University, was quite a happy combination. In this way, subjective preferences could be avoided and the list of criteria reliably processed. In retrospect, it can be said that we will never know if we have perhaps overlooked even more talented people, but those who have been included in the program have proven themselves absolutely.
－ Prof. Josef Protschka