September 29, 2010

Bronwen Forbay performed one of opera’s greatest tragic roles when she made her Cape Town Opera debut Oct. 16 in Lucia di Lammermoor.

Forbay, a coloratura soprano, earned an Artist Certificate in vocal performance from Meadows School of the Arts in 2004. At SMU, she was a student of Barbara Hill Moore. Forbay is one of 15 students who have come to SMU from South Africa as Schollmaier Scholars through grants provided by the Bruce R. Foote Memorial Scholarship Foundation. The Foote Foundation’s mission is to encourage and support students with a background that has been historically underrepresented in the advanced pursuit of classical vocal study.

The Cape Times’ enthusiastic review of the performance states: “She is a wholly convincing Lucia, portraying a girlish naivety that becomes increasingly suggestive of a more fundamental mental instability until the celebrated mad scene of the final act reveals her as having lost touch with reality. The portrayal was chillingly accurate in its detailing …”

Lucia’s mad scene, often cited as a career maker for the late Dame Joan Sutherland and famously recorded by Maria Callas, “is such a challenge,” Forbay said in an earlier interview with The Cape Times. “Apart from requiring a solid technique and a great deal of emotion, there’s a lot to be learned from the pacing changes.”

A native of Durban, South Africa, she was awarded the 2007 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music. As a Fulbright Scholar she studied at the Manhattan School of Music in New York before attending SMU. Forbay returned to South Africa last year to take a two-year position at University of KwaZulu-Natal in fulfillment of her Fulbright obligations.

Forbay not only performs and teaches, but she also is studying for a doctorate in voice performance at the University of Cincinnati. Her dissertation topic is Afrikaans art songs.

Even though she’s working in South Africa, she still has close ties to Texas: Her husband of three years, tenor Randall Umstead, is an assistant professor of voice at Baylor University. In March the couple performed together in several concerts in South Africa.