Lyric Opera of Chicago

Soprano Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi to make Lyric debut as Clara in PORGY AND BESS

For immediate release:
Friday, June 20, 2014


Soprano Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi to debut at Lyric Opera 
as Clara in Porgy and Bess Nov. 17-Dec. 20

New performance added! Dec. 18 matinee

CHICAGO - South African soprano Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi will make her Lyric Opera and role debut as Clara in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, the company's general director Anthony Freud announced today. She replaces American soprano Angel Blue, who has withdrawn from the production for personal reasons.

"I am delighted that we will be able to present the company debut of Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi," said Freud. "When I auditioned Hlengiwe in Europe last year, I was immediately captivated by her very beautiful voice, her instinctive musicality, and her radiant personality. I know she will make an ideal Clara in her Lyric debut, singing the opera's signature piece, 'Summertime.'" 

A first-year member of Lyric's Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi (pron. "H'LEN-ghee-way M'kwah-NAH-zee") earned critical acclaim for her Chicago debut in May 2014: the leading role of Thérèse in Poulenc's Les mamelles de Tirésias, which she performed with other Ryan Opera Center artists and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago under the baton of Michael Christie at Symphony Center.

A native of KawZulu-Natal, Mkhwanazi earned her diploma in opera in 2010 and her postgraduate diploma in music performance in 2012, both from the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town. Among her leading roles in Cape Town have been Fiordiligi/Così fan tutte, Konstanze/Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and Antonia/Les contes d'Hoffmann, all at Cape Town Opera; and Stravinsky's Anne Trulove/The Rake's Progress and Rossini's Madama Cortese/Il viaggio a Reims at the Baster Theater. In America she has been heard as Adina/L'elisir d'amore at Virginia's Barter Theatre and Susanna/Le nozze di Figaro at Brown University.

The soprano's successes in competitions include second overall prize, media jury prize, and audience prize in one of the world's most distinguished voice competitions, Vienna's Hans Gabor Belvedere International Singing Competition (2012), as well as awards in her homeland's SAMRO International Singing Scholarship (second prize) and Muzicanto Singing Competition (first prize). Also in Vienna, Mkhwanazi has participated in master classes with two legends of opera, mezzo-soprano Fiorenza Cossotto and tenor Giacomo Aragall.

Porgy and Bess will open at Lyric Opera on Tuesday, November 17, with 12 additional performances scheduled through December 20. A matinee on Thursday, December 18 has just been added.

This Lyric Opera presentation's generous sponsors are  the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, and Roberta L. and Robert J. Washlow with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.