SA opera singer Levy Sekgapane wins competition in Spain

South African tenor Levy Sekgapane has been named the winner of the 14th annual Montserrat Caballé International Singing Competition in Spain.

Levy Sekgapane with Spanish opera icon Montserrat Caballé. Photo:
Levy Sekgapane with Spanish opera icon Montserrat Caballé. Photo:

The triumph is the latest in Sekgapane's rapid rise to international prominence as an opera singer. In July this year he took First Prize at the 34th International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in Amsterdam, Netherlands. With qualifying rounds taking place in 63 cities for 1314 participants worldwide this year, the Vienna-based Belvedere Competition is considered the premier ‘springboard’ for a career in opera. Besides Sekgapane, three other South African opera singers - Noluvuyiso Mpofu, Lukhanyo Moyake and Caroline Modiba - reached the final stage of the contest. In 2009 it was won by another South African opera sensation, Pretty Yende, who has since enjoyed an international career with performances at leading opera houses around the world.

Watch Sekgapane's winning performance at the Belvedere Competition below.

After winning the Belvedere Competition, Sekgapane entered the prestigious SAMRO Foundation Overseas Scholarship Competition in South Africa, eventually winning the contest’s Western Art category in the final on 29 August 2015. 

Not one to rest on his laurels, Levy was soon back in Europe taking part in the Montserrat Caballé International Singing Competition, another internationally renowned opera contest, hosted by the revered Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé, who is now in her 80s. And true to form, Levy won again! The win earned him prize money of 12 000 euros (US$13500) and a number of professional contracts. The victory earned him headline coverage in Spanish newspapers. Second Prize (worth 6 000 euros) went to Ukrainian baritone Yurity Yurchuk, while Third Prize (3000 euros) was shared by Chinese tenor Zhang Xiqiu and Greek soprano Aikaterini Koufochristou.

Celebrating his latest win, Levy announced on his social media: “Jesus did it once again - first prize Montserrat Caballé International Singing Competition 2015. I don't know what to do with myself... Montserrat just became my mother also tonight!”

Attending a masterclass with Montserrat Caballé a few days later, the Spanish diva asked Levy to sing for her to celebrate her recent 82nd birthday. He performed ‘una furtiva lagrima’, unrehearsed – watch the results in the video below.

With the opera world now at his feet, the 24-year-old student of the University of Cape Town Opera School is now set to reprise his role in il Barbiere di Seviglia (The Barber of Seville).


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