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“Sweeter than Roses” – English and Italian songs of the joys of love by Purcell, Britten, Mozart, Sondheim incl. “My Fair Lady”

DATE: Sunday, 25 April 2010

TIME: 15:00 – 16:30

VENUE: Masque Theatre – 37 Main Road, Muizenberg

BOOKING DETAILS: 021 – 788 1898 (Mon. to Fri. 09:00 to 16:00)

TICKETS: R60 (R50 Theatre Club members – regrettably no Credit Card Bookings available)

“Sweeter than Roses” – English and Italian songs of the joys of love by Purcell, Britten, Mozart, Sondheim incl. “My Fair Lady”
This delightful programme of mostly English songs explores the joys and dreams of young lovers through the songs of Purcell (“If music be the food of love”), Britten’s famous Folksong settings (“The Foggy, foggy dew”) and operatic extracts by Mozart, that master of comic characterisation. The three singers and pianist are all noted for their variety and perform in different styles, taking the audience through a tale of love lost, found and lost again. Shirley Sutherland will lead the second half of the programme with extracts from “My Fair Lady”, the show in which she had a major triumph at the Artscape Theatre in 2008. Louise Howlett, a veteran stage performer, will include extracts from her soon-to-be released second CD from the musicals “Cats” and “A Little Night Music”. Baritone John Hardie – winner of various awards such as the Leonard Hall Memorial Prize – is the perfect foil for the two ladies. He will be the Figaro to their Suzanna and Cherubino and the Don Giovanni to their Zerlinas. The programme will reflect the more playful aspect of young love, from the charm and beauty of setting of Shakespeare to more contemporary and popular music. The fact that most of the songs are in English makes this a programme with instant appeal for audiences of all ages. The keyword is variety, and versatility is what this set of performers are known for.

Meet the perfromers

Pianist and presenter Albert Combrink

Pianist Albert Combrink devised and compiled the programme as well making musical arrangements and accompanying the singers. He has worked as accompanist and musical director from the opera house to the musicals stage. Magic Flute (Isango Portabello) won a London Critics’ Olivier Award and  Assassins (New Space Theatre) won two Fleur du Caps. International arrtists with whom he has worked include American soprano Judith Kellock and British superstar Lesley Garrett. Recordings as orchestral member and soloist with orchestras include works by Hendrik Hofmeyr and Alfred Schnittke with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. His broad interest in music has enabled him to put on a number of off-beat and unusual programmes. These include Ladies & Ladders (Kalfiefees), Dangerous Liaisons (Beau Soleil), and Moonlight Serenade (Kirstenbosch Chamber Music Series) – the latter in collaboration with Louise Howlett). He has been musical director of the Rotary Opera in a Convent Garden since 2007. He is member of the CT Tango Ensemble which recently launched its second CD Tango Club to a sell-out audience at the Baxter Theatre.

Soprano Louise Howlett: equally at home from Bach to Blues

Soprano Louise Howlett studied singing at the Royal College of Music in London, with Margaret Cable. She performed at the Bergen Festival and Edinburgh Main and Fringe Festivals, as well as performing in the award winning production of The Ragged Child at the Sadlers Wells Theatre. Originally classically trained, her love of jazz and the musicals led her to create her own unique combination of classical, broadway and jazz “Across the Styles” projects out of which her “Serenade” series was born.  These productions can vary from classical versions, to jazz standard evenings to the full range of genres blended into one programme. She has performed with great success at various venues and festivals including the Kirstenbosch Winter Chamber Music Series, the Greyton Rose Festival, and most recently at the Baxter Theatre. In one season she performed both in the classical line-up of Barry Smith’s Concert Series at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and at the Big Blues Festival in Kleinmond.

Baritone John  Hardie studied singing at UCT and Stellenbosch University and his teachers include Sarita Stern, Nellie du Toit and Marita Napier. He sang with Capab Opera for 3 years taking part in productions of “Albert Herring” and “Cosi fan Tutte”. He won the College of Music Opera prize in 1988 and 1989, the Friends of the Nico Malan Opera Prize in 1990, the Leonard Hall memorial Prize in 1991. He has performed professionally with accompanists such as Albie van Schalkwyk, Tommy Rajna and Neil Solomon.

Shirley Sutherland entertains in musicals and opera

Soprano Shirley Sutherland has proven her versatility in the fields of Opera, Muiscals and Oratorio. With Cape Town Opera she toured Sweden and Germany in productions of Rusalka, and Showboat. Her many awards include the Cape Times Best Actress Award for her role of Roxy in Chicago. She has been seen in concert around the country, including Richard Cock’s Last Night of the Proms and various oratorios.

Read more about some of the works on the programme on the following posts:

~ Benjamin Britten Folksong (re)settings: when artsong meets folksong

~ Schoenberg to Sondheim: Louise Howlett & Albert Combrink perform at Kirstenbosch

~ Breaking Rules: Discussing performers who cross over different styles and genres

King Kong, the first All African Jazz Opera 1958

 King Kong is of course one of the most famous American films ever made (and remade). The story of the giant ape transported from a faraway island to New York, captured the imagination of millions since its first release in 1933. South Africa however, has its own King Kong. In 1958 King Kong became the first all African Jazz Opera, with a star studded local cast including Miriam Makeba and the Manhattan Brothers, Kippie Moeketsi, Abigail Kubheka and Hugh Masekela.

Opera in a Convent Garden, an annual concert held at Springfield Convent School (St. John’s Road, Wynberg), this year features a delightful choral extract from this work.  Albert Horne, chorus master of Cape Town Opera, made an arrangement of the famous number Back of the Moon, which will be performed by the Cape Town Opera Voice of the Nation Ensemble – South Africa’s premier opera chorus.

Miranda Tini

Soloists will be Cape Town favourites Shirley Sutherland (My Fair Lady) and  Miranda Tini, whose extraordinary voice has thrilled audiences locally and internationally in roles as diverse as Jezibaba from Dvorak’s Rusalka and Mariah in Porgy and Bess praised at the Cardiff Millennium Centre in Wales, for her “powerful stage presence and equally powerful voice.” (Bill Kenny: Music Web International) 

Cape Town Opera chorus’ experience with Jazz influenced works such as Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess make them ideal interpreters of this neglected work from the South African cultural heritage.

In 1956, the Syndicate of African Artists commissioned Todd Matshikiza to write a large work for choir and orchestra. The composer had written successful choral works before, but since no orchestra was available, Uxolo was created on a massive scale for choirs and brass band. The success of this work – with its jazzy undertones, led in part to the creation of the musical/Jazz Opera King Kong. Lyrics were by Pat Williams. Matshikiza wrote the music as well of some of the lyrics (some in African languages).

Miriam Makeba: Our beloved "Mama Africa"

Lead roles were taken by Nathan Mdledle and Miriam Makeba, who created the role of Shebeen Queen Joyce, the matriarch running the Back of the Moon watering hole. This role brought Mama Africa Makeba international attention and launched a singing career that sustained her throughout her life as an Apartheid exile. The 63 member cast was backed by the cream of South Africa’s jazz musicians, including the now legendary reed player Kippie Moketsi


Opening early in 1959 at the Wits University Great Hall, the show was an immediate success. By the time the show travelled to London in 1961, 200 000 South Africans, had seen the show. The life of boxer Ezekial Dhlamini was good material for a stage work. His meteoric rise to the top of South Africa’s boxing world as the famous ‘King Kong’ was in sad contrast to his descent into drunkenness, violence and murder. He killed himself by drowning at age 32. Matshikiza had covered Dhlamini’s 1950’s trial for treason as a journalist and was aboviously well-acquainted with his subject matter. According to The Daily Mail & Guardian, “Matshikiza understood his central character, and, more importantly, understood the whole world that surrounded ‘King Kong’. He understood the whole black world of the townships that fed Johannesburg and the histories of the people who filled those townships.” ~ Craig Harris, All Music Guide


Composer and author Todd Matshikiza

Todd Matshikiza (1921-1968)  is considered by many, as belonging to the royalty of South African music. One of a family of 10 – all of whom instrumentalists and singers –  Todd started piano lessons at the age of 6. As an adult he ran the Todd Matshikiza School of Music, where he also taught the piano. From 1949 to 1954, Matshikiza was a committee member of the Syndicate of African Artists. This group aimed to promote music in the townships by getting visiting artists to perform there. Finding it difficult to make a living as a jazz musician, he joined the editorial staff of Drum Magazine.  He wrote a jazz column covering the township scene, particularly in Sophiatown, where he commented on the likes of Kippie Moeketsi and Hugh Masekela who both played for the The Jazz Epistles. He also covered township life in his regular column With the lid off.

South African arts bosses should take note:  the time is surely right for a revival of King Kong. With musicians such as Albert Horne taking such an active interest in the history of black jazz in this country, it would be a pleasant surprise if the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology would also take such an active interest in the preservation of this piece of cultural heritage.

  Read more about Todd Matshikiza at and

Other works on the programme Opera in a Convent Garden  include operatic extracts such as Juliet’s Waltz Song from Gounod’s opera Romeo e Juliette, the Doll Song from Offenbach’s Les Contes D’Hoffmann. Musicals The Student Prince and Show Boat round out a programme designed to please all ages. The accompanists are pianists Albert Horne and Albert Combrink.

When: Sunday 7 February 2010

Time: 17h30

Where: Springfield Convent School (St. John’s Road, Wynberg, Cape Town)

Price: Adults R100 / Scholars R20

Bookings: 076 696 4630

Chorus Master Albert Horne with the Cape Town Opera Voice of the Nation Ensemble

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Sunday, February 7th, 2010, will find Opera in a Convent Garden once more in the beautiful gardens of Springfield Convent in Wynberg, Cape Town. Our formidable cast this year features soprano Shirley Sutherland and the Cape Town Opera Voice of the Nation Ensemble. Chorus Master of Cape Town Opera Albert Horne and pianist Albert Combrink will create the very essential ‘orchestra’ to match the voices.

Gems from the soprano coloratura repertoire will be woven between extracts from Porgy and Bess, Die Fledermaus, My Fair Lady, The Student Prince, King Kong and Traditional Gospel Spirituals.

The Gate in the Junior School campus, opens at 15hoo, parking will be on the grounds accessed via Convent Road.   The show begins at 17.30 and pre-concert attractions will include the Cape Town Caledonian Pipe Band and a Marimba orchestra).

Bring your picnics, blankets and low chairs.  Pizza and pancakes will be available at the Opera Cafe as well as other refreshments.

Book during school hours on 021 797 9637 (ext 200) or on 021 689 8345 and 076 696 4630. Contact us on