A FULBRIGHT Scholar born in Durban (South Africa), soprano BRONWEN FORBAY, has performed for both the late Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth the Second. Principal operatic roles include highly acclaimed performances of Orasia, Queen of Thrace, in the American Premier of Telemann’s Orpheus, and Mozart's Queen of the Night, both with the Wolf Trap Opera Company. Forbay has sung Mozart's Queen with the Eugene Opera, Tulsa Opera, where she stepped in at the final dress rehearsal, and at the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra's "Cardinal's Concert" at the Emmanuel Cathedral (Durban, South Africa). Other lead role successes include the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor and Violetta Valery in La Traviata with the Cape Town Opera, as well as the title role in Amarillo Opera's She never lost a passenger: the Story of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. A Finalist in the 2016 National Opera Association Voice Competition, she was selected as the Soprano Soloist for the Taos Opera Institute's "Cantos de Taos" Quartet and performed throughout Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico in June 2016. Recent highly acclaimed performances include Adina in L'Elisir d'amore with the Gauteng Opera (Johannesburg, South Africa), the Soprano Soloist in Mozart’s Requiem in Waco, Orff’s Carmina Burana in San Antonio, and the premier of semi-autobiographical song-cycle Ubuntu: We are one family by Mary Alice Rich for the Voces Intimae Recital Series in Dallas. Forbay reprised the role of Velmyra in the modern opera Wading Home at the 2017 Women's Music Festival in Columbus, MS, for the Voces Intimae Recital Series in Dallas, TX, the 2017 TEXOMA NATS Artist Series, and on a national tour of South Africa in 2018. She has performed Afrikaans Art Song Recitals with Dr. Stephen Pierce (piano) in Waco, and at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music (Los Angeles). Recent performances include the opening recital for the first TEXOMA NOA Convention at the Southern Methodist University with Christian Bester (baritone) and Sharon Lavery (piano). Upcoming performances include the featured recital at the 2020 Texas Music Teachers’ Association Convention in Houston, TX, with Randy Umstead (tenor) and Sharon Lavery (piano).
Reviewer Scott Cantrell praised Forbay's performanceof Velmyra in the 2015 Dallas World Premier of Wading home by composer Mary Alice Rich, calling Forbay " a drama-queen Velmyra, (with) a soprano that bloomed and blazed thrillingly on high”.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
September 16, 2015
In June 2015, Forbay reprized the role of tragic heroine Violetta Valery with the Gauteng Opera (Johannesburg, South Africa).
Her performance was hailed a "triumph!" Paul Boekkooi noted:
"It requires a courageous soprano to portray a completely well-rounded Violetta. The demands made in Act I are totally different from those in Acts II and III.
Bronwen Forbay's musical presentation encompassed all these requirements – from high coloratura to heavily dramatic moments. Her interpretation was magnificent, full of expressive power, with a varied timbre spectrum. Worth more than gold, is a person who can make you believe in the character - even in her extremely elegant collapse and death at the end.”*
June 6, 2015
*Originally in Afrikaans.
Forbay maintains an extensive concert repertoire of standard and modern works including Bach’s B Minor Mass, BWV Cantatas 51 and 209, Haydn’s Creation and Lord Nelson Mass, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Missa Solemnis, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Mozart's Mass in c minor and his Requiem - performed on tour in Venice, Verona and Vicenza (Italy) with Varna International. She performed the Soprano Soloist in South African composer Phelelani Mnomiya’s Inqaisivele weAfrika (Zulu) arranged for four soloists, chorus, and orchestra, during the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup. She was also the Soprano Soloist along with highly celebrated South Africans mezzo-soprano, Sibongile Khumalo, and baritone, Fikile Mvingelwa, in modern South African composer Philip Miller’s REwind Cantata for Voice Tape and Testimony (based on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Hearings) at the Royal Festival Hall in London, England, that year. Additional appearances as a featured Soloist include performances with the Alabama, Indianapolis, and Tulsa Symphony Orchestras, the Santa Fe Pro Musica (Baroque) Orchestra, Cincinnati Baroque, the Brazos Valley Symphony, Waco Symphony Orchestra, CCM Philharmonia, Manhattan School of Music Percussion Orchestra, Johannesburg Festival Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, and KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Successful in many international competitions, Forbay won 2nd prize and the Audience Choice Award in Opera Birmingham's 2002 Voice Competition (US), won the SMU Concerto Competition (Voice Category) in 2004, and won the 1st UNISA Southern African Voice Competion in 2005. In 2006, she won 3rd prize in both the CCM Corbett Competition and the 5th UNISA International Voice Competition. She also won the SAMRO (South African Music Rights Organization) Award for Most Promising South African Opera Singer that year. In 2007, Forbay was awarded both the Catherine Filene Shouse Career Grant for Singers from the Wolf Trap Opera Company, and the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music (a prestigious national South African award whose recipients include internationally acclaimed sopranos Pretty Yende, Keleboghile Besong, and baritone, Njabulo Madlala.). This led to Forbay being the featured soloist in a Gala Concert with the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra on the Grahamstown National Arts Festival's main-stage program. As part of the festival, she also performed the Soprano Soloist in Haydn's Creation with world-renowned bass-baritone, Simon Estes, highly-regarded American tenor, Randall Umstead, and the Yale Alumni Chorus.
An avid recitalist, Forbay has performed with world-renowned collaborative artist, Steven Blier, South African Steinway Artist, Christopher Duigan, and highly accomplished US based South African pianist Dr. Stephen Pierce. In 2012, Forbay performed Afrikaans Art Songs in recital for the American Cathedral in Paris (France) Les Arts Georges V Series. She has presented Afrikaans Art Song lecture recitals for the 2013 TEXOMA NATS Conference’s Artist Series, 2014 College Music Society’s National Conference (St. Louis, MO), and 2018 National NATS Conference (Las Vegas, NV) with Stephen Pierce (piano) and Christian Bester (baritone).
In June and July 2015, Forbay sang the Soprano Soloist in Brahms' Liebeslieder, Neue Liebeslieder Walzer and German operetta selections, on a national tour of South Africa with the Texas-based Lonestar Classical Voices Quartet (Randall Umstead - Tenor, Jamie Van Eyck - Mezzo-soprano, Christian Bester - Baritone, and Kaju Lee - Piano), while serving as South African tour coordinator, planner, and road manager. Performances included the Grahamstown National Arts Festival the second-largest festival of its kind in the world after the prestigious Edinburgh Festival.
Forbay holds a B. Mus degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban, South Africa), an M. Mus from the Manhattan School of Music - earned (New York) while on a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Artist Certificate from the Southern Methodist University. She is the first South African woman to earn a DMA in Vocal Performance which she obtained from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, with a cognate in Opera Stage Directing. While at CCM, Forbay won the SAM ADAMS Award for most outstanding performance in a CCM Opera production for the role of Princess Ginevra in Handel's Ariodante. Based in South Africa from 2009-2011 to fulfill her Fulbright home residency requirement - a condition of being awarded the Fulbright scholarship, Forbay resides in Waco, TX.