Ipeleng never misses an opportunity to work towards her dream of being a professional singer.

DAAD-Stiftung Concert in Bonn

Being invited to take part in the DAAD-Stiftung’s benefit concert was very exciting because I had never sung outside of Mannheim since I have been studying here. I was also very excited because I would be meeting other music students from all over Germany.

The preparations took some time because I had to learn the music. I worked on the music with my music teacher and my core pianist and when the concert came, I was ready to perform and make music. The preparations also took long because I had to prepare for a speech to say on the night of the concert. And Because my German was not so good, I had to practice a lot.

When I arrived in Bonn we got straight to work with the other musicians who were scholarship holders like me, working and rehearsing for the concert that was to come. I was very excited about the event because the music was beautiful, mainly the instrumental pieces, and it moved the heart.

The night came and the concert went very well. I was very happy with everything and my singing. The night was beautiful, everyone was looking beautiful and music was made. The audience was also very pleased with our performance and gave us a warm welcome after show. It was also very nice also to speak to some of the people after the show, who kept wishing me well in my career and encouraging me to keep working hard, finish school and sing in the big theatres. The night ended with us having dinner at a restaurant nearby, with good company and good food.

Covering Sonya Yoncheva in a benefit concert for the Mannheimer Philhamoniker

About over a month ago I was fortunate enough to be chosen by the music school in Mannheim to cover Sonya Yoncheva in the rehearsals for her concert with the Mannheimer Philhamoniker. Sonya Yoncheva is a world-renowned Bulgarian soprano who has performed in Opera houses such as the Metropolitan opera house, Royal Opera House, Teatro alla Scala, Bayerische Staatsoper, Berlin State Opera, Wiener Staatsoper, and the Opéra de Paris.  For these rehearsals, I sang the aria, Un bel di vedremo from Madama Butterfly  and Donde lieta uschi from La Boheme, both by Puccini. I had to quickly learn the music while I was home, to prepare to sing it with the orchestra. It was hard because I couldn’t get much done at home but things started coming together with the music when I got back. I received intense lessons from my singing teacher and pianist and at the end, felt more at ease with the new repertoire.

This opportunity gave me a chance to intensely work with a full orchestra on these arias and learn a lot from both the orchestra and the conductor. This was helpful because these are the kind of songs I will be singing in future, and so it was very nice to work on something that will benefit me in my career in the future as a young soprano.

It was also very exciting to meet an opera star that has performed all over the world. It was exhilarating to see her sing and observe how she approaches certain things while singing, like engaging with the audience during her performances. It was very pleasant to talk to her after the rehearsal as well and ask her questions about her career and experiences. I even received advice on how to make it in the industry as a young soprano.

On the day of the concert, Mrs Yoncheva was not feeling well and we were then asked to stand by during the concert and be ready to sing at any time. With this being said, the concert went very well and we didn’t have to sing. It was a beautiful night with beautiful music. It felt like a dream to be there and witness her sing and also to be part of it. I surely do appreciate the moments and memories made there. Because I had never sang with an orchestra before, this opportunity gave me the experience of intensively working with a full orchestra and singing in front of so many instrumentalists, also made me gain more courage and confidence as a young opera singer. This will definitely be helpful when I get to perform with an orchestra one day. On the day of the concert, I spent the whole day getting ready to sing, in case I was asked to, but it didn’t happen, so I was little disappointed because I was looking forward to singing in that beautiful venue that evening. Hopefully, my wishes to sing in a concert with a full orchestra will come true soon.

Opernschultreffen week in Stuttgart

I was told a few months ago that I would be taking part in the Opernschultreffen in Stuttgart, even though I am not part of the Opera school at the Hochschule, because I am majoring in Konzert/Lied. And because I was very excited about getting a chance to work with some of the best opera singers, directors and conductors, I started learning the pieces I was given as soon as possible. This was going to be a weeklong meeting of all the opera schools in Baden-Württemberg, with masterclasses, operas, ensemble classes and seminars.

I was given music to learn a month prior to the meeting, which was a quintet from Mozart’s Magic flute and a sextet from Don Giovanni. I made sure I learned the music well in advance so that the rehearsals before we went to Stuttgart would go well. This gave me a chance to also work with other students from the Hochschule, as I had never worked with them before. The course ran from the 16th to 23rd of June, but I only arrived on the 17th because I had a concert the previous day. I arrived in Stuttgart on Monday and had to take part in the masterclass the same day. The masterclass was with Angela Denoke, a German opera and concert singer who has sung in theatres like The Metropolitan opera house in New York, the Wiener Staatsoper in Austria, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Staatsoper Hamburg in Germany and many more. With bags and all, I did not feel ready to sing, but I still did it. I performed one of Donna Elvira’s arias, “Ah chi mi dice mai” from Don Giovanni, where Elvira is very angry because she just found out that her lover has betrayed her. She looks for him with hopes of getting revenge. Ms Denoke and I got straight to work, mostly on the interpretation of the aria and the portrayal of the character. The masterclass went very well and I managed to meet some students from other schools and listen to them sing.

Eventually I got to the guesthouse we were staying in and got some rest for the next day. I could tell from the schedule we were sent that the coming week was going to be hectic. The next day I only had a rehearsal for one of the ensembles I was in and did not have any other classes. When we had free time, we were encouraged to attend other classes to listen to other schools. This way we would also learn from them. I attended scenic classes that were being conducted by Stefan Herheim, a Norwegian opera director who has worked at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Staatsoper Hamburg, the Royal Opera House and many more. From attending this and other classes, I learned a lot about acting and interpreting music in different ways.

The next day I had a class with Cornelius Meister, a German conductor and pianist, who has conducted theatres such as the Wiener Staatsoper, the Staatsoper Stuttgart, The Metropolitan Opera, the Opernhaus Zürich and many more. We worked on the quintet from the Magic flute, along with my colleagues. Together with Mr Meister, we focused on the German text, the musicality of the whole piece and a bit of acting. It was great to work with him because it gave us a sense of what we can expect when we work with a conductor in an Opera house. While all of these classes were taking place, different schools performed their operas at the Wilhelma theatre.

The next day I had another masterclass with Ms Denoke, and we worked on Guiditta’s aria from Guiditta by Franz Lehár. Once again we concentrated intensely on the character (of Guiditta), the interpretation of the music and the German text. I learned a lot from Ms Denoke because she is a dramatic soprano and I am going in that direction too. So, I was very excited to work with her even from the beginning.

For the rest of the day, I had some free time and decided to see a little bit of Stuttgart. I visited the Staatsoper Stuttgart, the Schlossgarten and decided to have a little picnic with a friend under a tree because it was very hot. This week was very exciting because I also managed to see a friend of mine from South Africa who is studying in Stuttgart. We went to the same university back at home and I had not seen him in a long time. We managed to get a few drinks and catch up about life in Germany, school and missing home.

The next day, we had a session with Dan Ettinger, an Israeli-born conductor who has worked in theatres like the Royal Opera House, the Opéra National de Paris Opera Bastille, the Nationaltheater Mannheim, the Bayerische Staatsoper and a lot more. We focused on the text and the musicality of a sextet from Don Giovanni but did not work intensely on the piece, as we did not have enough time. Everything went well and he was very pleased with my voice, though. For the rest of the week, I spent my days attending the remaining masterclasses of Doris Soffel, a German mezzo-soprano, and Barbara Frittoli, an Italian soprano.

After a wonderful week of music, I went back to Mannheim, tired but very energized to return to school and sing some more.

Summer 2019 in China

At the beginning of the year I decided to apply to a few summer programs around the world. This was one of my goals. I wanted to gain more stage experience outside of school and get a chance to work with other professionals in the opera industry. I was then invited for to an audition in Berlin in April. A few weeks later I received an email telling me that I had been selected to be part of 40 singers from all over the world, to take part in the 2019 Ising international young artists festival in China. I was very excited about the news and could definitely not wait for an unforgettable summer in Suzhou, China. We were sent different music, both Chinese and western, for our concerts. We were individually sent different pieces to prepare before we got there, and working on them was a lot of fun. The music was comprised of ancient Chinese compositions and popular contemporary songs. The western pieces were ensembles, big and small from operas by Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, Strauss and many more.

Preparing for the trip was a little stressful because there was not a lot of time left to apply for a visa, but everything worked out very well with the help of a travel agent. After getting my visa, it all started to get real. The excitement began to increase as the departure date drew closer.

I left for China on the 27th of July and arrived in Shanghai the next day. The Ising crew was waiting for me just as I arrived, with my name written on a board. This felt really special as I had never had someone eagerly waiting to welcome me with a sign at the airport before. I got there and met up with some of the singers who had also just gotten to China. We then drove to Suzhou, where the summer program would take place. I met the rest of the singers at the apartments and settled in. We were already scheduled to begin with orientation, classes and coachings. They invited a few singing teachers and coaches from around the world: the USA, Germany, Italy, France and China. From the beginning, we had lessons with them everyday. We would work on the music for the upcoming concerts. We were given a lot of Chinese music to learn, so we had to get a lot of coachings for the music, language and style. But we would work on our own repertoire as well.

We usually had long days, having left the apartments at 10 in the morning and only returning at about 7 or 8 in the evening. We would spend our whole day at the Suzhou cultural center, where the program was taking place, attending classes, masterclasses and rehearsals. We also took Mandarin classes, everyday for most of the month, and only stopped when we started with the concerts. We had a young language teacher and the classes were always fun. They divided us into smaller groups and we learned the basics, like greetings, introducing ourselves, counting up to 10, and how to order food or buy things at the shop. We also learned about the culture and history of China.

We didn’t get a lot of day offs but when we did, we made sure to see the beautiful Suzhou and visited the gardens. A few friends and I were able to visit the ancient Tongli city, the Tiusi gardens, the Pearl tower garden and the Lion grove garden. The ancient city and parks were very beautiful with old Chinese buildings and art.

After long days of working and learning, we would often share a meal together, having traditional Chinese food. It was always fun to explore the different dishes with my fellow colleagues, my favorite foods were the dumplings with meat, fried rice and hot pot.

We had 5 major concerts across three cities in China and three with the Suzhou philharmonic orchestra. Additionally, we had flash mobs and sponsor concerts. For the first concert performance, we prepared Chinese art songs, old and new songs of ancient and new poetry that talked about the history of China. The second recital was with the orchestra, at the beautiful concert hall in the art center. There we performed western opera music. The third concert comprised both the western and eastern repertoire. This was a very big affair with a children and adult chorus, dancers and the orchestra. It was also a celebration of the Republic of China’s 70th birthday. The concert was directed by Anna Maria Bruzzese from Italy and conducted by Kamal Khan from the USA. Khan and I knew each other already from my previous school in South Africa. I worked with him only briefly before he had to go back to the USA but I was nevertheless very happy for this opportunity to work with him again. I loved working with him and he was very impressed with my improvement. For the fourth concert, we moved to Nanjing and repeated the same program made up of the western and eastern repertoire.

We worked very hard, rehearsing everyday to make sure all the performances went well.

After an amazing month, the program ended with this last concert. Most people left to go back to their home countries but some of us stayed behind. A few were chosen to be part of the China international young artist festival in Guangzhou. This was the 12th year of the festival and it was held in 11 different cities in China, among them the major ones, Tianjin and Guangzhou. Artists from over 20 countries gathered in Guangzhou to take part in one of the biggest arts festivals in China. We had to learn a few news pieces and also performed some of the music we had already sung during the last month. The festival took place at the beautiful and famous Guangzhou opera house, designed by the famous Zaha Hadid. It was amazing. We left China the next day and we couldn’t stop crying before we headed to the airport to leave. Saying goodbye was very hard because we had all became very close during our time there.

Honestly, my time in China was amazing, more amazing even than I had imagined it would be. The Ising program was wonderful. The management and crew were also great and always willing to help. We were treated well and were very well taken care off. I learned a lot from all the teachers that were there and gained tremendous experience, performing with my colleagues, the orchestra and Kamal Khan. We had fun, laughed, cried, learned and made beautiful music and memories together. I am super happy and proud of myself to have completed the program and appreciate the opportunity Ising gave me.

Upcoming semester and plans

My fourth semester is approaching and I am very excited about it. After a hectic and crazy summer at uni as well as the Ising program in China, I am now resting and preparing for the upcoming academic year. I look forward to getting back to school and learning. There are still a few things I would like to work on and achieve with regards to my voice and artistry as a whole. For this semester, my plan is to secure my vocal technique and to explore different types of repertoire. I would also love to expand my range and look into more dramatic soprano roles.

 After a successful and productive summer in China, I cannot wait to get back and apply everything I learned there. I am also excited because this semester is bringing new adventures and opportunities for me.

I am very thrilled to be traveling to Palermo, Italy next month for the Città di Alcamo International Singing Competition. The school is a partner of the contest and they chose me along with another student to go through to the semi finals. I have not taken part in a competition in a long time, so I look forward to the challenge, meeting new people, and hopefully making meaningful connections. To prepare for it, I have been going to school to practice and work on the music. I am also planning to take lessons with Professor Krahnenfeld, my singing teacher, even before school reopens.

 Another event that is coming up, one that I’m thrilled about, is the Mozart gala. This is a concert put together by the music school. The auditions for this event were last semester and they were successful for me. The soloists and orchestra will be from the school and the concert will be held in the beautiful Rittersaal of the Barockschloss at the University of Mannheim. It will be conducted by Cosima Sophia Osthoff, a Professor at my school. I am looking forward to singing at this concert because I couldn’t take part in it last year, as my audition was not successful. I am very happy to be part of it this time around.

 I will also be going to Berlin for a masterclass conducted by Kamal Khan. He invited me to be part of it when we were in China over the summer. He was very pleased with my singing and wanted to see me again, so we could work together some more.