South African Soprano Pumeza Matshikiza: ‘Tuning In’

British filmmaker Claire Oakley’s film Tuning In is a delicately shot short documentary about South African Soprano Pumeza Matshikiza.

Pumeza was born in a township on South Africa’s Eastern Cape. She discovered Opera for the first time by accident as a teenager when switching radio stations and fell in love. The song that was playing was The Marriage of Figaro sung by Swiss soprano Edith Mathis.

Pumeza talks about her connection to meditation and what goes into creating the emotion in her voice. (Image via Claire Oakley Vimeo/Screenshot)

Pumeza talks about her connection to meditation and what goes into creating the emotion in her voice. (Image via Claire Oakley Vimeo/Screenshot)

She studied at the University of Cape Town College of Music and moved to London to further her studies at the Royal College of Music with a full scholarship.

By 2014 she had released her debut album Voice of Hope, with arias from Puccini and Mozart, along with African popular and traditional songs.

Subtle imagery in Pumeza Matshikiza documentary Tuning In. (Image via Claire Oakley Vimeo/Screenshot)

Subtle imagery in Pumeza Matshikiza documentary ‘Tuning In.’ (Image via Claire Oakley Vimeo/Screenshot)

In 2015, Pumeza made her debut singing with Sir Antonio Pappano, along with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Santa Cecilia, in Rome for the world premiere of Luca Francesconi’s Bread, Water, and Salt, which is based on the famous speech by Nelson Mandela.

The featured short film was commissioned by Universal Music. It begins with Pumeza sitting in an empty theatre talking about the wonder and dreaming that goes along with the experience of a visit to a performance at a theatre.

Pumeza:

Pumeza Matshikiza performing. (Image via Claire Oakley Vimeo/Screenshot)

Pumeza Matshikiza performing. (Image via Claire Oakley Vimeo/Screenshot)

We follow her into a library as she talks about the things she puts into herself to bring the character to life. She wanders past books, paintings, and talks about how it could be a bit of personal experience, a color from some scenery. But it is important not to put too many things in or the piece can be too emotional. She stands with books under a painting, poised and calm.

Pumeza:

Empty Theatre where Pumeza starts talking about her craft. (Image via Claire Oakley Vimeo/Screenshot)

An empty theatre where Pumeza starts talking about her craft. (Image via Claire Oakley Vimeo/Screenshot)

There is a beautifully edited series of plants intercut with Matshikiza’s gentle face as she talks about her daily practice of meditation and how this helps her performance.

Pumeza:

Pumeza shares that the piece she sings, Après un rève by Gabriel Faurè, was written when his engagement fell apart. The person is dreaming about their lover.

Pumeza on her way to perform. (Image via Claire Oakley Vimeo/Screenshot)

Pumeza on her way to perform. (Image via Claire Oakley Vimeo/Screenshot)

Pumeza:

The film ends with a startling performance where she walks into out the brightly lit doors and we are left with nothing but her silhouette.

Striking Shillouette of Matshikiza performing. (Image via Claire Oakley Vimeo/Screenshot)

Striking silhouette of Matshikiza performing. (Image via Claire Oakley Vimeo/Screenshot)

Writer/director Claire Oakley is a co-founder of Cinesisters, a collective of female directors. She frequently works as a researcher for commercials directors and production companies.

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