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A thriving arts scene – ballet, opera, philharmonic orchestra

12 February 2024


In the cultural hub of Cape Town, a symphony of artistic brilliance unfolds across the stages of the Cape Town City Ballet (CTCB), Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO), and Cape Town Opera (CTO). These three esteemed institutions, each a beacon of excellence in its own right, come together to create a kaleidoscope of visual and auditory delights that captivate audiences from near and far. The Cape Town cultural scene is like no other.

Exploring Cape Town’s Premier Cultural Institutions: Ballet, Opera, and Philharmonic Orchestra

Africa’s Oldest Ballet Company: The Cape Town City Ballet

The Cape Town City Ballet (CTCB), Africa’s oldest ballet company, transcends time with its captivating choreography and the artistry of its exceptional dancers. The CTCB has made significant contributions to the cultural landscape of the country and has staged iconic ballets such as “Swan Lake”, “The Nutcracker”, “Giselle”, “Romeo and Juliet” and “Cinderella”, among others. “Carmen” is the latest performance in the company’s impressive resume.

The CTCB has an extensive performance schedule, both in Cape Town and throughout South Africa, promoting the art of ballet among diverse communities. The company also engages in educational and outreach programmes, offering ballet training and workshops to aspiring dancers and providing access to the world of ballet to a broader audience.

Veronica Paeper, esteemed South African dancer, choreographer and interim artistic director of the CTCB, expressed her primary motivation for being part of the organisation: Ensuring the preservation and bright future of the beautiful art of ballet in South Africa. She believes that classical ballet has its place in the world and especially in Cape Town, where there is a constant flow of upcoming talent.

Shaping South Africa’s Classical Music Scene: The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

Established in 1914, the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) is the oldest and one of the most prominent orchestras on the African continent. The CPO has significantly contributed to shaping the classical music scene in South Africa and has garnered international acclaim for its exceptional performances.

Resident conductor, Brandon Phillips, refers to the CPO as the “orchestra of the people,” a testament to the organisation’s dedication to embracing music that speaks to different cultures. In addition to its classical repertoire, the CPO actively engages in collaborations with artists from various genres, including jazz, pop, and traditional South African music.

The CPO’s performances take place in prestigious venues throughout Cape Town, including the iconic Cape Town City Hall, which has been the orchestra’s home virtually since its inception. Beyond their concert performances, the CPO is committed to community engagement and education. By offering educational programmes to hundreds of young musicians, school concerts, and conductors’ and composers’ competitions, the CPO aims to inspire and nurture young musicians and promote music education.

Africa’s Only Permanent Opera Company: The Cape Town Opera

Completing this magnificent trio is the world-renowned Cape Town Opera (CTO), the only permanent opera company on the African continent and one of the largest performing arts institutions in South Africa. The CTO showcases a diverse repertoire that spans the classics to contemporary works – from timeless masterpieces to bold reinterpretations of operas that highlight South Africa’s unique cultural heritage.

According to Magdalene Minnaar, celebrated South African soprano and artistic director of the CTO, the company’s motto is diversity, sustainability, and creativity. The CTO is one of the most diverse opera companies in the world, both in terms of race and gender. Furthermore, the company is proud to be housed in the Artscape building, one of the most disability-friendly theatre complexes in the world.

Minnaar is particularly focused on expanding audience bases throughout the country as well as developing emerging talent through the CTO’s various youth programmes. The CTO engages in educational and outreach initiatives, nurturing the next generation of opera talent and fostering a love for the art form.

Elevating Cape Town’s Cultural Scene

These institutions impress and succeed on their own, but together, they create an artistic synergy that elevates Cape Town’s cultural landscape. The Cape Town City Ballet, the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Cape Town Opera regularly collaborate to support and complement each other, adding depth to the already magnificent talent that exists within each organisation. No visit to Cape Town is complete without experiencing the vibrant Cape Town cultural scene,  and at least one of these captivating cultural performances.


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