Former Director of the UCT Opera School, Angelo Gobbato, will discuss Beethoven’s opera, Fidelio, at GIPCA’s next Great texts / Big Questions public lecture.
Fidelio, Beethoven’s only opera, reflects a struggle for political liberty and has relevance to the political history of South Africa. Gobbato’s modern-day production of Fidelio was set in Robben Island and tells the story of how Leonore, disguised as a prison guard named “Fidelio”, rescues her husband Florestan from death in the political prison. This production introduced opera to South Africans that had never before been exposed to the art form.
Angelo Gobbato is widely acknowledged as having helped opera to flourish in South Africa and garner international interest and recognition. Having begun his operatic career as a bass Gobbato went on to become a highly successful opera director, taking South African productions to appreciative audiences around the world. As Director of the UCT Opera School – from 1982 to 2008 – he spearheaded the transformation of opera, turning CAPAB’s Opera Department into Cape Town Opera, the first independent professional opera company in Southern Africa.
As CEO of Cape Town Opera, he developed an international reputation for the company, collaborating with Den Norske Opera (Oslo) in a production of Fidelio on Robben Island to celebrate 10 years of South African Democracy; with Nürnberg Opera and Den Norske Opera in a touring production of Show Boat; with Norrlands Opera (Sweden) in a production of Rusalka and of Porgy and Bess. CTO’s Vocal Ensemble was also invited to participate in the Royal Gala which formed part of the opening ceremonies for the Donald Gordon Auditorium in the Cardiff Millenium Centre. In 2005, he retired as CEO of Cape Town Opera to devote more time to the growth of operatic training in South Africa, but continued to direct opera on a regular basis for South African and international operatic centres as well as for the UCT and other local Opera Schools. His programmes have broken boundaries, bringing opera to the new audiences and fostering exceptional operatic talent.
Gobbato received a Merit Award from the department of Arts, Culture and Heritage of the Western Cape in recognition of his outstanding achievement in and contribution to the performing Arts; the title “Cavaliere nell’ordine al merito della Repubblica Italiana” by the Italian Government; the Western Cape Premier’s Award for Special Contribution to the Cultural life of the Western Cape; the Khula Award for music and an Honorary Doctorate from UCT for his contribution to the transformation of the Vocal Arts in South Africa. Upon his retirement, UCT granted him the tilt of Emeritus Professor.