Planned events

Panel Discussion – Transition, transnationalism, and the operatic present: THE NOSE in conversation

10 June 2022

BORN is pleased to announce its first public event of 2022: a panel discussion on operatic transnationalism and cultural collaboration involving creators of the South African Dance | Rap | Opera, The Nose (2021).

What does transnational collaboration with South Africa look like today? How can we approach the challenges posed by (post)colonial attitudes, the pandemic and changing working structures in the performing arts? How do questions of genre, heritage, and agency influence collaboration and artistic empowerment in current social and political contexts?

Together with collaborators from The Nose, South African choreographer and director Jessica Nupen discusses the challenges faced by transitional artistic work that tackles the complexity of culture, class, feminism, power and the corruption thereof.

Moderator: Lena van der Hoven


Jessica Nupen, Artistic director and choreographer Read Jessica's bio

Jessica Nupen completed her formal training at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London. Her interdisciplinary dance theatre and performance works have been presented at Kampnagel Centre for the International Contemporary Arts In Hamburg, Deutsches Theater Munich and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. She has choreographed for international operas, musicals and dance works across Europe and South Africa.  Jessica Nupen’s political engagement goes beyond her artistic practice: as well as lecturing at dance festivals, in podium discussions or diplomatic conferences, she also accompanied German President Steinmeier on his state visit to Southern Africa in November 2018 as an Arts Ambassador for Germany and South Africa and met with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

As Founder and Director of the Movement Metropolitan e.V. Jessica promotes platforms for international artistic collaboration in Germany, and through her involvement in the Sukuma Trust develops and empowers young dancers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds in South Africa.

Oscar Buthelezi, Assistant choreographer and dancer Read Oscar's bio

Oscar Buthelezi, born in South Africa, choreographed and performed the duet Road, which won a double award at the 2016 Kurt Jooss International Award for Choreography, becoming the first African to win this prestigious award. Buthelezi was commissioned to choreograph the musical The Color Purple in 2018 and received the 2019 Naledi Award for Original Choreography for his work on the musical. He then choreographed the local and international tour of the world-renowned Ladysmith Black Mambazo in late 2019. In June 2019, Buthelezi participated in the 33rd Hanover International Choreography Competition with his short piece “Road”.  He won the Jury Prize for Best Choreographer, the Audience Prize and the Tanja Liedtke Foundation Scholarship, which enabled him to undertake an artistic residency at the Australian Dance Theatre in Adelaide. Oscar was assistant choreographer and dancer in Jessica Nupen’s THE NOSE.

Pumza Mxinwa, Singer Read Pumza's bio

Born in 1988, all the way from the dusty streets of Butterworth in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Pumza Mxinwa started singing at a very young age and joined Sakhabengoma Choral Society in 2005. Her love for opera grew stronger when attending Msobomvu Senior Secondary School, where Sibusiso Njeza introduced her to the genre. She competed in National School Choir competitions as a soprano and obtained Position 2 at the Tirisano competition in Grahamstown in 2005.

Pumza joined the Cape Town Opera Company in 2011 as one of the ad hoc chorus members and performed in all local and international productions under the baton of Albert Horne including La traviataLa bohéme, Fidelio, Otello, Porgy and Bess, Lost in the Stars and Heart of Redness. In 2014 she became a permanent chorus member of The Cape Town Opera Vocal Ensemble and performed her debut of Evelyn in Mandela Trilogy at the Wales Millenium Centre and in 2016 at the Ravenna Festival. She also undestudied the role of Mother of Mandela in the same production, as well as Serena in Porgy In Bess when the company travelled to Argentina. She toured Dubai and Hong Kong with the production of Mandela Trilogy, in the role of Evelyn. From August 2018 to February 2019 she joined English National Opera and Dutch National Opera in their production of Porgy and Bess, as Lilly and ensemble member. Pumza also learned the role of Sister Rose, which she was meant to do with the Welsh National Opera in 2019. Since the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, Pumza has been a part of the Cape Town Opera Chorus, doing recordings, local performances and played the role of Yvette in Cape Town Opera’s 2021 production of La rondine.

Siphesihle Mdena, Singer Read Siphesihle's bio

Siphesihle Mdena was born in Qonce (formerly King William’s Town) in the Eastern Cape. South Africa. He started singing at school, as a member and soloist of school choirs. Siphesihle obtained his Performers’ Diploma in Opera and Postgraduate Diploma in Music and Performance under the supervision of Prof. Virginia Davids, Prof. Angelo Gobbato and Prof. Kamal Khan at UCT Opera School. While still at school, he was awarded 1st prize in the opera category at the Tirisano National Schools Competition in Johannesburg for his rendition of an aria from Mozart’s opera Così fan tutte. In 2006 he was awarded a bursary from the National Arts Fund to continue his studies in music and singing, and joined the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town, where he performed a number of operatic roles including Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte and the Schoolmaster in Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen.

Siphesihle was part of the Cape Town Opera African Angels that toured the Netherlands in 2013. In 2014 and 2015 he toured Europe with the Third World Bunfight’s Macbeth, directed by Brett Bailey. In 2021 Siphesihle performed the role of Prunier in CTO’s La rondine. He is currently a member of the Cape Town Opera Chorus.

Time: 10 June 2022, 18:00 CET / 12:00 EST

Contact us at for registration details.

Africa and the Diaspora on the Contemporary Opera Stage

Details to be confirmed

Black politics is in a phase of global renewal and alliance-forming, with TikTok activists engaged in #BlackLivesMatter and Hong Kong protests, repurposing social media platforms to diverse causes. Colonial, Confederate and slave trader memorial statuary has fallen from Cape Town to Bristol, signaling global trends in protest and resistance to long-established hegemonies. Artists and audiences are also listening outside traditionally assigned genres, and this listening is not merely random, but signals new identity formations. Contemporary opera has heard voices of both a renewed black polity and the willingness to work outside inherited genres. Likewise, however, composers and practitioners are embracing opera as ‘traditional’ form, to reinscribe it with previously untold narratives and meanings. In what ways are Africa and its diaspora telling their own stories on the contemporary opera stage?

Talking points may include, but won’t be limited to:

  • operatic adaptation of existing works (within and across genres)
  • the re-appropriation of contentious forms
  • formal experiments, such as Mthwakazi’s Xhopera
  • ‘traditional’ opera by black creators
  • opera and/as activism

Structural Barriers to Black Operatic Endeavour

Details to be confirmed

On 23 June 2021, news emerged of acclaimed South African soprano Pretty Yende’s detainment at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France. Yende’s experience echoes reports by other Black singers of having to prove to border police in countries where they are contracted to perform that they are, in fact, musicians. These instances of racial profiling are part of a catalogue of obstacles Black opera practitioners face before they even get to the stage: others include insurmountable administrative processes including visa requirements and travel restrictions; the financial and archival work involved in reconstructing and bringing to performance works by Black composers; and economic and infrastructural circumstances in countries of origin that often impede long-distance negotiation or preparation. Global structures of exclusion and inequality continue to undercut efforts to cast more Black singers and to programme works by Black composers, thus further impeding opera’s long-overdue reparative work. In this panel we listen to Black opera professionals’ experiences of structural obstacles to participation, and begin to think through possible solutions to these challenges.

Talking points may include, but won’t be limited to:

  • operatic reform and the issue of so-called ‘national security’
  • institutional responsibility towards contracted artists
  • programming and the challenge of archival reconstruction
  • the deceptive gains of the digital era