Levy Sekgapane talks about Rossini
I heard opera for the first time on an Italian food TV commercial when I was 10 years old, in my native Kroonstad, South Africa. Unbeknownst to me, the seed was planted right there and then.
Although I come from a musical family, we did not have a classical music background—my grandparents and parents sang in school when they were young and later on in church. One of my brothers, who is also a singer, used to bring home opera CDs and DVDs. He also had students that he trained in our home, and I would imitate them once they had finished their classes.
Later on, when I started my formal musical education, I was without a doubt inspired by the great tenors of our time, such as Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras, and Plácido Domingo. My encounter with Rossini’s music came when I was at university, where I discovered recordings of Juan Diego Flórez, and I immediately fell in love with that music and with his way of singing it. It was the first time I had ever heard the voice of a Rossini tenor. Delving deeper into the Rossinian style, I listened to other great tenors of that generation, such as Lawrence Brownlee, Gregory Kunde, and Bruce Ford. The more music I discovered from that repertoire, the more I engaged with it, and it became my passion to sing it, imbued with my own character.
Right from the beginning of my career, Rossini’s music became the core of my repertoire, and I performed it at important opera houses such as Paris and Munich. Time passed, and I finally got the chance to record this album, which combines the music that Rossini wrote for three particular and very different singers: Giovanni Davide, Manuel García, and Andrea Nozzari.
Davide came from the school of the castrati and had an extremely wide range, being able to reach the tenor’s top notes very easily. Rossini used to call him a “tenorino”, and the arias that the Maestro wrote for him are the highest in terms of tessitura.
García was a virtuoso baritenor, meaning that he had a much darker timbre than Davide, had great coloratura, and could sing both baritone and tenor roles. However, he decided to remain in the tenor repertoire. He was a very good teacher as well—his daughter and pupil Maria Malibran became one of the most famous singers of her days.
Nozzari was a true and dark baritenor for whom Rossini created the roles of Otello, Agorante, Argirio, and Leicester. These roles have a very wide range in which the singer must be able to reach not only the high notes but also get deep into the low notes with dramatic colour.
Returning to my personal experience with Rossini, his music feels like are within me that is always active, always colourful, and with plenty of emotion. Forever young, this music fills me with joy and lifts up my spirit. I am happy to present to you this, my first album, the Rossini arias so close to my heart, sung from my heart, and with my own colours.