"I learned the value of 'come scritto' and how to juxtapose that with my own understanding and artistry in order to give life to a character in real time"
-Musa on AVA
Philadelphia, PA: This month South-African bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana, a 2013 Grand Finals Winner of The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, graduates from his musical studies at the Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) in Philadelphia. He reflects upon his time as a resident artist and shares what’s next on his musical horizon.
Q: You put in four years of intensive musical study at AVA – what was that like? And what did you learn?
Musa: "I have learned so much at AVA! What sets the institution apart is, in my opinion, the rigorous coaching and instruction paired with frequent and varied opportunities for performance. I had an average of 3 coachings a day, plus rehearsal and performance time, which amounts to at least two months of preparation and exploration for any given role. This approach gave me the ability to dig deep into my roles and investigate the psyche of the characters I was portraying. I learned the value of 'come scritto' and how to juxtapose that with my own understanding and artistry in order to give life to a character in real time."
Q: Part of the AVA program focuses on learning the art of bel canto and studying portrayals by the great singers of the past. What did you discover by actually stepping into some of those famous roles?
Musa: "Through performing the Villains in 'Hoffman', Sancho in 'Don Quichotte' and recently le Comte des Grieux in 'Manon' I discovered that French music does wonders for my singing! Though French music does not necessarily fall under the traditional 'bel canto' which refers to a specific time in Italian culture and style of music, it does somehow fit in as 'bel canto' which means 'beautifully sung.' And this of course we achieved by investigating each style through the abundance of coaching time."
Q: What is your favorite performing memory?
Musa: "My favorite memory would be performing 'Oberto' as the title role, Conte di San Bonifaccio, which is Verdi’s first Opera, written in his 20’s. The work has a remnant of the bel canto style and introduces what was to be Verdi’s signature style in his later operas. I remember singing this role in a concert version with the orchestra on stage behind me at a theater in Delaware and just becoming completely immersed in the character’s world. It’s heavy stuff -- he is engrossed in grief and torment, but eventually comes to life in a heroic and noble fashion. I was later delighted to read that 'Delaware Arts' had complimented my ‘strong baritone’ and remarked that I ‘gripped the listeners with the force of the character’s emotion.’ That early recognition summed up everything I aim to achieve through my singing."
You’ve just signed on with Bill Guerri at CAMI --- what’s next for you?
Musa: "I am looking forward to making my role and house debut with Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center in the fall, participating in the company’s new production of 'La Boheme.' I dearly venerate Ms. Francesca Zambello, who offered me this opportunity, as one of the leading stage directors and administrators in the business. I was highly encouraged by her comments and feedback when I sang for the company last year.
I am also excited to be working with Mr. Guerri at CAMI; being represented by such a distinguished agency is humbling, inspiring, and motivating. I am ready to carry the African torch and I am looking forward to growing as an artist and conquering the world!"
One last thing! You’ve had several reviewers note that people ought to learn to correctly pronounce (and spell!) your name because soon you’ll be a big star! Will you set the record straight and sound it out for us?
Musa: "My first name is actually a shortened version of 'Musawenkosi' which is a Zulu name, given by my mother who is also Zulu, which means God’s Grace/God’s favor:
(mu: sa) grace
we (wɛ) of
nkosi (n: kohsi) Chief, King
So (Mu: sawɛnkohsi) is easy to pronounce.
…My last name on the other hand, no amount of IPA can teach one to pronounce it except a master class with a native speaker or audio/video as it has clicks!”
... is a fourth year resident artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts and 2013 Grand Finals Winner of The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions
Click to download Musa's press packet including his biography, a high resolution head shot, repertoire list and contact information. Document may take up to 30 seconds to load.