COLORATURA soprano, Beverley Chiat, will be performing in the Christmas concert in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall on Thursday, December 3. ESTELLE SINKINS spoke to her ahead of the event which also features the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir and concert pianist, Christopher Duigan.
You have been a regular visitor to the KZN midlands over the past few years, what do you love about performing here?
There are many wonderful things about performing here: the people are friendly and welcoming; I get to sing with amazing musicians like the KZN Phil and Christopher Duigan; and then I stay at the best guesthouse called ‘Fountains’ which has become like a second home.
Have you performed with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra and Drakensberg Boys Choir before?
I have sung with the KZN Phil quite a number of times in the past, including in their productions of Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, a Valentine’s Day Concert and most recently in Carmina Burana.
I also sang in an Italian Opera concert with them earlier this year at the beautiful Pietermaritzberg City Hall.
This is my first opportunity to sing with the Drakensberg Choir so I’m thrilled about that!
What will you be performing at the concert?
I’ll be singing sacred works including a piece from The Messiah, some beautiful Christmas carols, Ave Maria and a lovely Christmas piece by Von Weber.
What is your favourite operatic role and why? And do you have a favourite composer?
One of my favourite roles is Gilda in Rigoletto by Verdi as she sings beautiful music.
My favourite composer is Mozart as my voice is suited to his writing. I find his writing clean and precise and the drama and characterisation are very apparent in the music.
I understand that you enjoy singing Jewish folk music — how did this come about and what do you love about it?
Yes, I have a fairly large repertoire of Yiddish Folk Songs. I grew up knowing a couple of them but was, for the most part, introduced to them by the musicologist, Fay Singer, and from a 10-year involvement in the Annual Yiddish Song Festival, of which I was a founding member. It took place at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town.
You teach singing, why is it important to you to share your knowledge with others?
Teaching is very rewarding. I teach younger. and older adults. I believe it’s important for every person wanting to pursue a career in singing or even those people who enjoy singing in choirs, to have a safe and healthy technique upon which they can rely.
Singing is also very therapeutic on many levels. It helps people with their confidence and can be a great outlet to one’s frustrations.
So, for me, teaching is not only about teaching a technique but giving people a space where they can focus on themselves instead of everyone around them, connect with their true voices and, in the process, a deeper part of themselves.
When did you first begin singing? And when did you realise that you wanted to do operatic work?
I started singing around the age of eight when I took guitar lessons at school. I realised when I had my first singing lesson at the University of Cape Town Opera School that I loved this way of singing. Before that I thought I would train my voice for musical theatre.
It’s the festive season, how will you be spending your December? Will you be taking time off to be with family and friends or will you be working?
I’ll be doing some singing work but will definitely be spending time with loved ones. I have a friend visiting from abroad which I’m looking forward to. I hope to take a little time off to go away locally as well.
NEED TO KNOW
THE Christmas concert, which gets underway at 7 pm on Thursday, is presented by Parklane SuperSpar, in association with Christopher Duigan’s Music Revival and the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, and sponsored by the City of Pietermaritzburg, CPW Printers and ABI.
The orchestra, conducted by Daniel Walshaw, will play a section of Christmas favourites including Sleigh Ride and A Christmas Fantasy; and the world-renowned Drakensberg Boys Choir will sing seasonal music including selections from Stella Natalis, a work for choir and large orchestra by Welsh composer, Karl Jenkins.
The choir will also lead the audience in the singing of traditional carols accompanied by the famous City Hall organ.
Tickets, ranging from R130 to R200 (with discounts for pensioners (R120) and students and children (R80), are available at Parklane SuperSpar’s Coffee Shop. Phone 033 342 3487.
There is secure parking in the City Hall, the Tatham Art Gallery and Bessie Head Library precincts.