Who is Janelle Visagie?
Born and bred West coast farm girl. I grew up in Lutzville which is in the Namakwaland.
What/Who inspired you to get into music?
Music has always been a part of my life. It was never really a decision or an inspiration that led me to go into music. I didn’t want to at first actually. But life is what happens when you are making other plans… I am where I am supposed to be. The universe knew better!
I didn’t choose opera. It chose me! I joined the Cape Town Opera Ad hoc chorus in 2004. From there it just developed. I found that my voice was very comfortable with the operatic repertoire and I liked singing it. Now I love it. It’s an exciting challenge to develop one’s voice to sing over a 60 piece orchestra… without a microphone. The thrill is indescribable.
How would you describe your sound?
I am a soprano. In operatic lingo my voice would be described as having a lyrical spinto quality. Spinto in Italian means “pushed”. The term lyrical spinto means that the voice has a dramatic quality. The legendary soprano Maria Callas, was a lyrical spinto. She of course became a dramatic soprano later in her career but roles that she is well known for and which suites the lyrical spinto fach (a German word meaning category) is Tosca, Aida and Madama Butterfly to name a few.
What do you like most about opera music?
As I mentioned earlier it is quite thrilling to be able to sing over an orchestra without amplification. But also the beauty of the music and how it relates to the story. The passion. The drama!
Where do you see yourself in the next 3 years?
Hopefully still singing! We are starting another International tour of The Sound of Music in September and we will visit Manila (Philippines), Singapore and “Macau” (China). We will be in South Africa in March and April 2018. I play the Mother Abbess. This is the role for which I am best known for. I also received a Fleur du Cap award for Best actress in a musical for this role. Very proud of that!
What is your favourite childhood memory?
December holidays by the sea.
How can artists use music to influence positive change within the community?
When you become an artist that is in the public eye you also inherit a platform to lead through example whether you like it or not. Music has an emotional connection and has a lot of power. Well known Afrikaans rapper Simon Witbooi aka Hemelbesem, that sang the title song for the movie Noem my Skollie, is a great example of the positive change an artist can make in the community. He visits schools and chats to the children. He was also involved in a program addressing fetal alcohol syndrome.
Who is your inspiration/role model?
My friend, Pretty Yende, well known South African soprano that has an amazing international operatic career. Now that girl is inspiring!
Do you think that it is easy for new artists to get into the industry?
No. It is hard. I’m not going to lie. Only the truly committed make it… sometimes.
What is your least favourite thing about the music scene lately?
The singing competition Idols. These kids get thrown into instant stardom without proper guidance on how to manage their careers after the year they have access to Idols management. That’s why so many Idols winners disappear from the scene. It takes experience and quite a few people to manage a successful singing career.
When you’re not on stage, what else keeps you busy?
I am a makeup artist in the film industry.
What was the last gift you received?
If you could work with any artist/producer, who would it be?
My idol, Pretty Yende. We studied and performed together many times before, but I just love soaking up her incredible energy. She is so joyful and such a fantastic singer.
Which was your favourite production you worked on and why?
The Sound of music. It was a life changing experience. It really put my name out there. But also it is such an iconic musical. Everyone you talk to about it will tell you about their lovely memories from seeing either the movie or it being the first musical their parents took them to years ago, or how they sang the songs at school. Who does not know the song Do Re Mi! It’s wonderful and humbling knowing you touched people.
Do you have a favourite theatre to perform in?
ArtsCape opera house is great and it’s my home ground so there is a lot of sentiment. I have performed in some pretty spectacular international theatres over the years though. The Le Chatelet in Paris was pretty awesome.
What would we find in your fridge right now?
Milk, Coke Zero, yoghurt and lemons. I’m not a cook obviously.
How do you prepare for a performance?
Lots of rehearsing beforehand. On the day I would have my routine of warming up my voice and then the makeup, dresses and (fake) jewels!
What do you look most forward to in 2017?
Our upcoming tour of Sound of music!
What is your most embarrassing moment?
We were on tour with Sound of music and during a performance I forgot one of my lines. Complete blank. But Bethany Dickson, who played Maria was so awesome. I think she could see the panicked look in my eyes and ad-libbed a few lines until I got my bearings and we could continue. She was amazing and saved me from a very embarrassing moment. It was only a few seconds but it felt like eternity!
What advice would you give to a new artist that’s hoping to make it out here?
If performing is your dream and you are willing to stick it out, sometimes for a few years before you get noticed – I only really became better known at the age of 36 – then go for it. Be prepared to maybe have a second job while you are working on your career. Be open to learn from other pro’s. Don’t be a diva. Take advice and criticism only from people you respect and trust and who you know has your best interest at heart. Try to let the rest roll off your back.
Facebook: Janelle Visagie | Twitter: @janelle_visagie | Instagram: @JanellVisagie
YouTube: Janelle Visagie