Monday, February 2, 2015

Pumeza Matshikiza: The Marketing Of African Beauty

Nearly two years ago, Decca announced that it had signed soprano Pumeza Matshikiza to its label. The marketing angle at the time was about a girl that had transcended the poverty of growing up in poor townships in southern Africa to become an opera singer of international stature. Press releases featured the artist in photos next to iron corrugated shacks in plain street clothes with her hair braided in corn rows. Her debut album would feature arias alongside songs
The original cover from March 2014
in the tongue of her native Xhosa. Then the label released the cover art for the new recording, Voice of Hope. At the time, the image seemed more polished than the story that was being told. Nonetheless it was a gorgeous portrait of the artist. A few months ago, the label released a video for the filming of "Thula Baba," one of the tracks off Voice of Hope. The soprano herself proclaims, "I'm trying lots of dresses. Very expensive dresses." Soon the only cover art to be found on the internet was a new glamorous image of Pumeza in a red gown looking like a well-seasoned model. Why the makeover? Other than the original cover not having the recognizable logo of Decca, it is a mystery as to why it changed. But it is not the first time that the British label has done a switcheroo on their artwork. Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli's debut recording in 1989 featured the singer wearing red satin gloves and dangling diamond earrings on the cover. By the 1990's, Decca had photoshopped the image by changing the gloves to black and erasing the earrings down to studs:

"Pumeza was born in a township on South Africa's Eastern Cape in 1979, growing up experiencing extreme crime and poverty. Pumeza studied at the University of Cape Town College of Music under Professor Virginia Davids, then at the Royal College of Music, London with a full three-year scholarship and in the Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where she made her début as a Flower maiden in Parsifal. Winner of the Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition in Dublin in 2010, Pumeza later joined the Stuttgart Opera, where she has been part of the full-time ensemble since 2011. Signing with the London-based label Decca in 2013, she recorded her debut album, Pumeza - Voice of Hope, at Abbey Road Studios. She sung one of the Innocents in the 2008 première of Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur, and her first major role was that of Mimi at the Edinburgh Festival in 2010 in a production by Opera Bohemia. There she was described as 'the real star of the show....who plays the role of Mimi...with a rich, lustrous voice.' She also sang at the wedding of
Pumeza's image when Decca announced her signing.
The new look of the South-African diva.
Albert II, Prince of Monaco, and Charlene Wittstock, accompanied by French guitarist Eric Sempe and percussionist Patrick Mendez. Pumeza performed a rendition of 'Freedom Come-All-Ye' at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which was viewed by one billion people worldwide. The song refers to Nyanga, one of the oldest black townships in Cape Town, which is also one of the places where Pumeza grew up as a child. Speaking about the song afterwards, she said: 'The song [...] is not one I was even aware of until I was given it to rehearse but it is so beautiful. I love what the song stands for – freedom and equality for everyone regardless of race or social standing or nationality.' She released her debut studio album, Voice of Hope in 2014 on Decca Records and containing four classical arias from Puccini and Mozart, in addition to mainly African popular and traditional. The Staatsorchester Stuttgart and Simon Hewett accomoany her for the arias, whereas the Aurora Orchestra and Iain Farrington accompany her for most of the songs, with one song with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in addition to other collaborations notably the African Children's Choir." [Source] To purchase the recording, click here. See the video of the South African star below making her music videos. Also, watch a performance of the soprano singing "Sì, mi chiamano Mimì" from Puccini's La Bohème live in concert, as well as the music videos of "O mio babbino caro" and "Thula Baba" after the jump.

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