Currently one of South Africa’s most sought-after basses, Eastern-Cape born Msimelelo Mbali’s reputation as a torch-bearer for the region’s bass voice is no doubt one on the rise.
Initially a self-taught singer whose love for opera music started out whilst still in high school, wherein he made his stage debut in 2006 singing ‘In diesen heil’gen hallen’ from Die Zauberflöte by W.A Mozart, in the Eastern Cape Choral Music Association competition, in which he won the first prize in the bass/baritone category. His vocal prowess here depicted the work of one of the region’s most respected voice trainers and young opera singer mentors, Mr Phillip Kholisile Ngqondi – who was happy to manage his voice all the way out of high school, critically seeing to it that his transition from a young bass-baritone to a growing bass respected all the dynamics of voice progression
In 2008, Msimelelo again won the 1st prize in the bass/baritone category singing ‘O Isis und Osiris’ from W.A Mozart’s Die Zauberflote. He then made his debut as a soloist in South Africa’s biggest choral music stage the Old Mutual National Choir Festival, singing the bass-baritone soloist in Mozart’s “Requiem Mass [K626]”, in which he guided his home choir Uitenhage Philharmonic Voices to victory. This spurred his artistic growth, seeing him seeing as the most on-demand bass-baritone within his home province and South Africa at large, sought by some of the country’s leading choirs.
His transition into a firm bass, came in 2013, which also saw the beginning of his private voice and performance lessons with Mr. Ngqondi. In 2015, he was invited to compete in South Africa’s prime opera singing competition, the Voices of South Africa International Opera Singing Competition, founded by London-based South African baritone – Njabulo Madlala and here in a tightly contested feast of some of South Africa’s finest young voices, he managed to take home the Chairman of the Jury Prize, a noteworthy feat for a home-schooled singer. This is where he got the opportunity to work with the great’s in the opera music genre for the first time is his musical journey.
Msimelelo continued to work with South Africa’s most successful choirs in the Old Mutual National Choir Festival and the Melting Pot Choral Music Competition in order to expand his knowledge and experience
In 2017, he qualified for the Final Rounds of the Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, held in Moscow, where as was one of only four South African singers, and he was the first South African bass to qualify. He also qualified for the Final Rounds of yet another of South Africa’s renowned singing competitions, the ATKV Muziqanto National Classical Vocal Competition.
In 2018 he was awarded the Baroque Prize by the Umculo Music Incubator, at the Voices of South Africa International Opera Singing Competition, This is where he was spotted by the casting manager of the English National Opera Michelle Williams and was chosen alongside South Africa’s best voices to be part of the cast for the English National Opera’s award winning Porgy and Bess where he was trusted with a few solo lines in all of the performances. He was also part of their 2018’s performance of Benjamin Britten’s WAR Requiem at the London Coliseum. In January 2019 he was trusted with solo lines by the Dutch National Opera in their version of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in Amsterdam, Netherlands. In July 2019 Msimelelo received the second prize in the Voices of South Africa International Opera singing competition, he has since, acquired a place as a Young Artist at the National Opera Studio in London, United Kingdom for the 2019/2020 advanced opera programme which concludes on the 19th June 2020.
Pictures Copyright: National Opera Studio/Nick Rutter 2019.