The career of South African soprano Nellie du Toit, born 1929

Mossolow, Alexandra Xenia Sabina (2003-04)

Thesis (M. Mus.)--University of Stellenbosch, 2003.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Who is Nellie du Toit and what is the extent of her career as singer and voice teacher? The void in South African historiography in respect to the life and work of South African performing artists gave rise to investigate the career of Nellie du Toit. Known as one of South Africa’s most illustrious opera singers of the 1960’s and 1970’s, who made her career exclusively in South Africa, she is regarded as one of the most sought after voice teachers. Her career as singer spanned almost three decades. As voice teacher her career of over forty years is still ongoing. This study traces her biographical details chronologically beginning with her youth years in a very musical family. Her full-time music studies took place at the South African College of Music in Cape Town, from 1950 to 1952. Here her singing teacher Madame Adelheid Armhold and Gregorio Fiasconaro, head of the Opera School, were influential in laying the foundations for her career. After a period of over a year in England Du Toit was one of several young South African singers to contribute to pioneering opera in South Africa, often sung in the vernacular. Du Toit sang in forty-five opera seasons for the Provincial Arts Councils in the seventeen years between 1963 and 1979, when her opera career ended. In 1986 she returned to the opera stage as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss. This was also her final farewell as opera singer. The title role in Madama Butterfly can be regarded as her hallmark. Her stunning portrayal of Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor was regarded as a mile stone in South African opera history, as was her interpretation of Jenůfa. She was also hailed as a Mozart singer. Not only was she regarded as one of the world’s best “Butterflies” at the International Madame Butterfly Competition in Japan in 1970, but has she also been awarded three Nederburg Opera Prizes. Apart from opera, Du Toit gave numerous recitals of classical and light classical music, regularly sang in orchestral concerts and oratorio and was active as broadcasting artist. Her work as voice teacher always ran parallel to her singing activities. Her academic career at the Universities at Stellenbosch and Cape Town spanned fourteen years: from 1980 to 1993. Nellie du Toit’s achievements in music were laureated with the Medal of Honour from the Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1986 and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Stellenbosch in 1998.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Wie is Nellie du Toit en wat is die omvang van haar loopbaan as sangeres en sangpedagoog? Die leemte in Suid-Afrikaanse historiografie met betrekking tot die lewe en werk van Suid- Afrikaanse uitvoerende kunstenaars het aanleiding gegee tot hierdie ondersoek na die loopbaan van Nellie du Toit. Bekend as een van Suid Afrika se vermaarde operasangeresse van die 1960’s en 1970’s wat haar loopbaan eksklusief in Suid-Afrika gemaak het, word sy ook beskou as een van die mees gesogte sangpedagoë. Haar loopbaan as uitvoerende kunstenaar het oor byna drie dekades gestrek. Haar loopbaan as sangpedagoog, ná meer as veertig jaar, gaan steeds voort. Hierdie studie ondersoek haar lewe en loopbaan chronologies, beginnende met haar jeugjare in ʼn baie musikale gesin. Haar voltydse musiekstudies aan die Suid-Afrikaanse Musiekkollege in Kaapstad het van 1950 tot 1952 geduur. Hier het Madame Adelheid Armhold, haar sangpedagoog, en Gregorio Fiasconaro, hoof van die Operaskool, ʼn stewige fondament vir haar loopbaan gelê. Na ʼn tydperk van meer as ʼn jaar in Engeland, het Nellie du Toit een van die jong Suid-Afrikaanse sangers geword wat operabaanbrekerswerk in Suid-Afrika gedoen het. Du Toit het in vyf-en-veertig operaseisoene vir die Uitvoerende Kunsterade gesing in die sewentien jaar tussen 1963 en 1979, die jaar waarin haar operaloopbaan tot ʼn einde gekom het. In 1986 het sy na die operaverhoog teruggekeer in die rol van die Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier van Richard Strauss. Dit was ook haar finale vaarwel as operasangeres. Die titelrol in Madama Butterfly kan as Du Toit se kenteken beskou word. Haar merkwaardige uitbeelding van Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor is beskou as ʼn mylpaal in die Suid-Afrikaanse operageskiedenis. Dit geld ook vir haar vertolking van Jenůfa. Sy was ook hoog aangeskryf as Mozart-sangeres. Nellie du Toit is as een van die wêreld se beste “Butterflies” aangewys tydens die Internasionale Madame Butterfly Kompetisie in Japan in 1970. Daarbenewens het sy in Suid-Afrika drie Nederburg Operapryse ingepalm. Afgesien van opera het Nellie du Toit talryke uitvoerings van klassieke en ligte klassieke musiek gegee en gereeld in orkeskonserte, oratoria en as uitsaaikunstenaar opgetree. Naas haar loopbaan as uitvoerder het haar aktiwiteite as sangpedagoog byna ononderbroke voortgegaan. Haar akademiese loopbaan aan die Universiteite van Stellenbosch en Kaapstad het oor veertien jaar gestrek: van 1980 tot 1993. Nellie du Toit se prestasies in musiek is bekroon met die Erepenning van die Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns in 1986 en ʼn eredoktorsgraad van die Universiteit van Stellenbosch in 1998.

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