Musa Ngqungwana, a bass-baritone from South Africa who debuts at Glimmerglass #Opera July 16, disclosed heavy thoughts on his and his countrymen’s wretched experience with racial hatred and discrimination in an exclusive interview with Blasting News, without betraying the slightest resentment or bitterness. Even better, he wants people to talk dispassionately about race and come up with practical solutions.

Evil comes in all colors

Part 1 of this interview revealed Musa’s fascinating background and included a brief overview of South Africa’s struggle to establish racial equality. With each opportunity for progress, the white man adopted laws intended to oppress the black population and keep them with no hope.

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At the observation that white people sure can be evil, Musa, without blinking, countered: “All people can be evil. Look at Rwanda’s genocide of 800,000 Hutus and Tutsis. Hutus and Tutsis all look alike. You can’t tell who are from either tribe. Yet they slaughtered each other. Look at Mobutu Sese Seko’s dictatorship of Zaïre, where many of his own people were murdered at his behest. People of all colors can do evil things.”

How to curb hateful speech

Excellent advice for everyone online nowadays: “Whenever I use social media to express anger, I write it and save it, but I don’t publish it right away. A week later I take a look at it and often find I am no longer angry about that, that whatever made me angry is no longer part of me. Just writing about it for myself alone helped me get rid of the anger.” If only everyone would follow such a sensible protocol.

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Singer/author’s fascinating background

Recommended viewing: Aria del Africa (2008), on YouTube, a 56-minute documentary featuring Musa, with excerpts from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, then being presented by The South African College of Music in Cape Town. Particularly eye-opening is the visit Musa pays to his extended family. One sees abundant natural beauty and beaming faces, and hears singing practically everywhere, ironically in the midst of very hard living conditions for people taught not to hope.

More languages than the Tower of Babylon

The multilingual singer grew up speaking Zulu, Xhosa (the one they call ‘the clicking language’), Swati and Ndebele. His English, in which he is fluent and richly expressive, is an acquired language, his fifth. When with part of the extended family, who speak Sotho, he says almost mischievously, “I can fake it. I sort of understand Afrikaans [a Dutch-based language]; I can read with understanding and translate it, but I can’t speak it. People in South Africa have little patience to help you learn their language.”

Of course, his operatic singing languages are French, German and Italian.

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So what’s the count so far? Ten? “If I could be forced to stay in Italy or a German-speaking country for a couple months, I think I would soon be able to fend for myself in Italian or German. I’m not so sure about French, if left in France.” Don’t worry, Musa, we wouldn’t subject you to that – not till you’re good and ready.

Bright prospects

Something says that this prize winner, including the 2013 Grand Finals Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, will soon be spending a few months in Italy and in Germany – when opera companies there get wind of him – and probably numerous countries of yet other languages to add to the lingual collection.

Part 3 of this interview focuses on Musa’s upcoming debut at Glimmerglass Opera. Without giving anything away, he provides a clear picture of the treasures awaiting the audience that sees La gazza ladra.

Rossini’s La gazza ladra. Only eight performances July 16 – August 25 at The Glimmerglass Festival, 7300 State Highway 80, Cooperstown, New York 13326.

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