South African singer wins prestigious Stuart Burrows International Voice Award


South African Baritone, Bongani Justice Kubheka was announced the winner of the celebrated Stuart Burrows International Voice Award during a wonderful evening of song which took place at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) in Carmarthen last Saturday, June 18th.

Twenty-two young singers from Wales, the UK and beyond took part in a day-long competition which resulted in Bongani Kubheka being awarded the coveted title along with a financial prize of £4000.

The highly respected Stuart Burrows International Voice Award is an annual event that takes place at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David each Summer with the 2016 award marking the tenth year of the competition.

The competition was established in honour of the world-renowned Welsh tenor and former Trinity College student, Stuart Burrows, with the aim of helping young soloists progress in their musical careers. 

This year, the competition judges were Sian Meinir and Andrew Greenwood – both of whom were overwhelmed by the standard of the competitors.

With more than twenty singers competing, the judges had the difficult task of shortlisting six to go on to perform a fifteen minute programme each in a concert that very same evening.  The winner, Bongani Kubheka, who was chosen by the judges, was announced at the end of the concert.

Bongani Justice was born and raised in Newcastle, a developing town of KwaZulu Natal province in South Africa. In 2010 he enrolled to study his Performers Diploma in Opera at the University of Cape Town, training with baritone Patrick Tikolo and receiving opera coaching from Professor Kamal Khan. He graduated in 2014 with 4 Distinctions and continued with post graduate studies in 2015.

During this time Bongani has developed as a young artist through a number of university productions and collaborations with Cape Town Opera. Roles include Papageno (Magic Flute), simultaneously the roles of Lüther and Crespel (The Tales of Hoffmann) the Commendatore (Don Giovanni), Don Basilio (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Lord Sydney (Il Viaggio a Reims), The Puppet Master (Postcard from Morocco) and Dottore Grenvil (La Traviata). His most recent production as part of his postgraduate studies was as Figaro in a UCT production of the Marriage of Figaro. He also has a keen interest in giving back to the community and participated in a prestigious local outreach music programme "Kunstreffers" which toured local schools and communities.

Bongani was chosen to perform with Bryn Terfel during his tour to South Africa in 2014. Also in 2014 he was invited to take part in a short course at Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artist Programme (YAVA). He has participated in a number of masterclasses and competitions and prizes include winning the Schock Foundation Prize for Singing, the Ian Renner Competition and the Amazwi Omzansi Competition founded by Njabulo Madlala. Most recently he was a finalist of the 2015 Operalia Competition held in London.

In October 2015, thanks to the support of a full scholarship from Wales Millennium Centre, Bongani moved to Cardiff to continue his studies with a Master’s Programme in Advanced Vocal Studies at the Wales International Academy of Voice under the tutorship of Dennis O’ Neill.

Graeme Farrow, Artistic Director of Wales Millennium Centre, commented: “As his success in the Stuart Burrows International Voice Award has proved, Bongani is a truly exceptional performer with a gifted voice and we are delighted to have had the pleasure of getting to know Bongani and hear him perform on our stage this year through our support of him with his Master’s Programme at the Wales International Academy of Voice. We wish Bongani all the very best for the future and hold absolutely no doubt that he has a shining career ahead of him.”

Thanks to a generous donation from Mr Dilwyn Williams, the competition also included a special Audience Prize with members of the audience having the opportunity to choose their favourite singer.  Bongani was obviously a popular choice, enchanting the audience and winning the Audience Prize as well as the coveted Stuart Burrows International Voice Award.

"This year, the competition celebrated its tenth year and it was very important for us to maintain the quality of the award - and that's exactly what happened,” said Eilir Owen Griffiths, UWTSD lecturer and the competition organiser.

“With 22 competitors from around the globe singing in the competition, we had a very special day. We had an incredible final with an exceptional standard of singing.  I was delighted with the result and the way that Bongani managed not only to captivate the judges but the audience too."

The five other finalists taking part in the concert were Bass Baritone, Arshak Kuzikyan from Armenia; Soprano, He Wu from China; Dominic Sedgwick a Baritone from England; Marlena Devoe, a Soprano from New Zealand and Welsh Mezzo Soprano, Eirlys Myfanwy Davies.

Further Information

Contact Sian-Elin Davies on 01267 676908 / 07449 998467 /