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Mimi Coertse in Vienna
|Born||Maria Sophia Coertse
12 June 1932
Durban, South Africa
|Occupation||Opera singer (Soprano)|
|Spouse(s)||Dawid Engela (1953-57)
Diego Brighi (1965-69)
Werner Ackerman (1970-1994)
Mimi Coertse (born 12 June 1932) is a South African soprano.
Coertse, born in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, matriculated at the Helpmekaar Girls High School in Johannesburg.:5 She began vocal studies in South Africa in 1949. Her first vocal coach in Johannesburg was Aimee Parkerson. Her debut performance in South Africa was singing Handel's Messiah at the Johannesburg City Hall on 11 December 1951. In July 1953 she married the broadcaster and composer Dawid Engela.:5 She left South Africa in September 1953 for London, and then went via The Hague to Vienna. In January 1954 she started training with Maria Hittorff and Josef Witt.
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Coertse made her debut in January 1955 as the First Flower girl in Wagner's Parsifal at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Karl Böhm conducting. She also sang in Basle at the Teatro San Carlo. On 17 March 1956 she made her debut at the Vienna State Opera as the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte by Mozart and remained with the Vienna State Opera until 1978. Her Covent Garden debut was in 1956, in the same role. Her roles were limited in the United Kingdom as the Equity boycott of South Africa due to Apartheid, prevented its members from having anything to do with country and its entertainment industry.
Coertse sang the soprano part in Bach's Matthäus-Passion at Fritz Wunderlich's first appearance in Vienna in 1958, when he performed the tenor arias with Julius Patzak singing the Evangelist. In 1958, Coertse and Fritz Wunderlich again worked together at the Aix-en-Provence festival in Die Zauberflöte. In 1965, she sang Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Vienna State Opera which also featured Fritz Wunderlich as Belmonte. In 1966, Mimi was honoured by the President of Austria with the title Österreichischer Kammersänger, for her ten years of work as a permanent member at the Vienna State Opera.:5
Her repertoire also includes:
- The Magic Flute (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) – Queen of the night
- Il Seraglio (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) – Constance
- Ariadne auf Naxos (Richard Strauss) – Najade, later Zerbinetta
- Rigoletto (Giuseppe Verdi) – Gilda
- The Tales of Hoffmann (Jacques Offenbach) – Olympia, Antonia, Giulietta, Stella
- Palestrina (Hans Pfitzner) – the Angel
- Carmen (Georges Bizet) – Frasquita
- Martha (Friedrich von Flotow) – Martha
- Mignon (Ambroise Thomas) – Philine
- La traviata (Giuseppe Verdi) – Violetta
- An Irish Legend (Werner Egk) – female lead
- Unverhofftes Begegnen (Joseph Haydn) – female lead
- I Pagliacci (Ruggiero Leoncavallo) – Nedda
- Arabella (Richard Strauss) – Fiaker-Milli
- Bastien und Bastienne (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) – Bastienne
- The Merry Widow (Franz Lehár) – Hanna Glawari
- Lucia di Lammermoor (Gaetano Donizetti) – Lucia
- Die Fledermaus (Johann Strauss II) – Rosalinde
- L'heure espagnole (Maurice Ravel) – Concepcion, staging Otto Schenk
- Don Giovanni (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) – Donna Elvira
- La bohème (Giacomo Puccini) – Musetta
- Norma (Vincenzo Bellini) – Norma
- Così fan tutte (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) – Fiordiligi
- Falstaff (Giuseppe Verdi) – Mrs. Alice Ford
- Turandot (Giacomo Puccini) – Liu, a young slave
- Angelique (Jacques Ibert) – Angelique, staging Axel Corti
- Don Giovanni (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) – Donna Anna
- Die schweigsame Frau (Richard Strauss) – Aminta, Timida 1968 Premiere Vienna State Opera, staging Hans Hotter
- Die ägyptische Helena (Richard Strauss) – Aithra
- Daphne (Richard Strauss) – Daphne
- Don Carlos (Giuseppe Verdi) – Elisabeth von Valois
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Since returning to South Africa in 1973 she has been a regular guest on South African stages and also a frequent broadcaster on radio and television. She remained contracted to the Vienna State Opera until 1978. In recent years she has devoted her time to exposing young South African singers to the neglected art of Lieder singing which can be artistically even more demanding than opera singing. Her support for her fellow South African musicians has been outstanding – as may be witnessed in her Debut with Mimi and through the Mimi Coertse Bursary.
In 1996, Austria's Federal Ministry for Science and Art awarded her the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art (Austrian Honour, first class) honour, the highest honour an artist can receive in that country. In 1998, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Pretoria and another in 2013 from the Unisa. In 2002 she would receive the Golden Rathausmann from the mayor of Vienna.
In 1998 Mimi Coertse and Neels Hansen founded The Black Tie Ensemble, a development project which enables young, classically trained singers to bridge the gap between training and professional performance. This project has developed into the most exciting classical singing ensemble in South Africa, and is now on the brink of becoming a vibrant, new, young opera company. A project for future stars of Africa! The Ensemble, sponsored by Sappi, performs operas at the State Theatre (Pretoria), Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden (Johannesburg) and the Civic Theatre (Johannesburg).
Mimi was married three times. Her first marriage was to a South African composer Dawid Engela in 1953 but the marriage ended in divorce in 1957.:5 Her second marriage was to Italian business man Diego Brighi in 1965 and was again divorced in 1969.:5 Her last marriage was to business man Walter in 1970 and lasted until 1994.:5 After five miscarriages she would adopt a son and daughter, Walter and Mia.
Honours and awards
- 1961: Medal of Honour of the South African Academy for Science and Art (Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns)
- 1966: Title of Kammersängerin:5
- 1985: Decoration for Meritorious Services (South Africa) in recognition of her contribution to the Arts:5
- August 1996: Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art
- 1998: Honorary Doctor of Philosophy (h.c.) from the University of Pretoria, South Africa:5
- 2002: Golden "Rathausmann":5
- In 2004: Voted 45th in the Top 100 Great South Africans
- In 2008: Mimi Coertse Museum van Afrikaans opened at Huis vir Afrikaanse Poësie in Capital Park, Pretoria.:5
- 2012: 1. July – 30. Sept. Special exhibition in Staatsoper museum Vienna: "Mimi Coertse, a Viennese woman from South Africa"
- Teresa Coetzee (5 August 2017). "My lewe het verloop soos dit moet, se Mimi". Die Burger.
- H. Rosenthal and J. Warrack, Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera (OUP, London 1974 printing).
- de Beer, Diane (12 June 2012). "'Onse' Mimi Coertse - a formidable woman". IOL. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- Rosenthal and Warrack 1974.
- "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 1067. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
- de Beer, Diane (9 September 2014). "Opera in limbo, facing reality of funds". IOL. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- "Maria Coertse | Who's Who SA". whoswho.co.za. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
- Helmuth Furch, 'Die Wiener Jahre von Kammersängerin Mimi Coertse,' ('The Viennese years of Kammersängerin Mimi Coertse'), Bulletin of Museums- und Kulturverein Kaisersteinbruch No. 41, 20–56, March 1996: also 'Mimi Coertse, die hochgeschätzte Konzert- und Liedsängerin' ('A reverence for a great Concert- and Lieder-singer'), ibid. No. 52, 33–54, December 1998.
- Helmuth Furch, Eva Hilda Smolik and Elfriede Werthan, Kammersängerin Mimi Coertse, eine Wienerin aus Südafrika (Kammersängerin Mimi Coertse, a Viennese woman from South Africa) (with a preface by Marcel Prawy), (Vienna 2002).