Local Talent making waves abroad


Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.” 

– Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

These four internationally acclaimed soloists are among South Africa’s best exports. They have proven that hard work does pay. Their international achievements are a force to be reckoned with.

Jacques Imbrailo

(Based in the UK)

Jacques Imbrailo grew up on a farm in the Free State province of South Africa, and  first got into singing on a dare, at age 11, during open auditions after a concert by theDrakensburg Boys Choir. He later went to university to study law, but took singing lessons on the side, earning both a BA Law degree and a B Mus degree at Potchefstroom Campus in South Africa, in 2002. He later studied at the Royal College of Music in London. He was also a member of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Imbrailo has been recognized in many competitions, and was runner-up at the South African Music Rights Organization International Scholarship competition, winner of Distell National Singing Competition in South Africa, won second prize at the 2005 Richard Tauber singing competition, won the vocal category of the Royal Overseas League Competition, and was finalist in the Kathleen Ferrier Competition. In 2007, Imbrailo received the Audience Prize at the BBC Cardi  Singer of the World competition. He has also performed in concert with the Hallé Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder at the BBC Proms, and with the New York Philharmonic under Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. He has performed solo recitals at Wigmore Hall, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Verbier Festival, and Royal Albert Hall.

Levy Sekgapane

(German Based South African Tenor)

Born in Kroonstad, Free State, South Africa, Levy Sekgapane joined community and church choirs from an early age, the Fidentia South African Youth Choir under the baton of André van der Merwe among others, and received his first music training in singing and piano at the Stellenberg High School in Cape Town with Marianna Marais and Elizabeth Wright. He graduated as a double major BMus student in classical piano and singing at the South African College of Music (University of Cape Town).

Levy Sekgapane is the winner of Mimi Coertse Singing Competition (1st Prize, 2013), Schock Foundation Singing Competition (1st Prize, 2013), ATKV-Muziqanto National Classical Vocal Competition (2nd Prize, 2014), 34 International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition (1st Prize, 2015), the SAMRO foundation scholarship prize (2015), and the XV Montserrat Caballé International Singing Competition (1st Prize, 2015).

Levy is currently involved in the following:

  • Tenore Voice at Die Theater Chemnitz
  • Tenor at Scottish Opera
  • Tenor at Chorakademie Lübeck
  • Musician at Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival

Luthando Qave

South African baritone Luthando Qave is the graduate of The Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. His upcoming engagements include Conte in Le nozze di Figaro, Fermer in Jenufa, Marcello in La Boheme, all in Stockholm Royal Opera.

Luthando’s 2013 and 2014 seasons included Purcell’s The Indian Queen in Perm, Russia, and at Teatro Real in Madrid, directed by Peter Sellars, as well as Leporello in Don Giovanni at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm. Guglielmo in Così fan tutte with Drottningholm Court Theatre and Marcello in La Bohème with the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel-Aviv Israel. He also sang Mahler’s Symhony No 8 with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Silvio in I pagliacci at the Finnish National Opera, followed by Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro in Stockholm.

In 2015 and 16 Luthando sang Indian Queen in Bolshoi and ENO (English National Opera), L’Amant Anonyme(Ophemon), Mandarin in Turandot at Dalhalla Opera Festival, Dan Cairo (Carmen), Conte (Le Nozze di Figaro) and Guglielmo (Così fan tutte) in Royal Opera Stockholm.

Pretty Yende

(South African Soprano Based In Italy)

Born in Piet Retief, Mpumalanga, Yende graduated cum laude from the South African College of Music – a part of the University of Cape Town. She also graduated from the Accademia Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy.

Yende won first prize in operetta and opera at the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition 2009 in Vienna, and in 2010 the first prize at the Vincenzo Bellini International Competition. In 2011, she won first prize at Operalia, The World Opera Competition, held that year in Moscow.

In 2012, she sang the role of Musetta in Puccini’s opera La bohème at La Scala in Milan. Yende made her Metropolitan Operadebut in New York City on 17 January 2013, in the role of Adèle in Rossini’s opera Le comte Ory.

Yende is credited for her vocals in Andrea Bocelli’s Concerto: One Night in Central Park (2011), and as a primary artist for the “Ode À L’Humanité” (Ode to Humanity, previously called Aria) track on the Yanni/Plácido Domingo collaboration Inspirato (2014).