Brittany Smith Breaks the Stigma

Brittany Smith Breaks the Stigma

Brittany Smith is a talented opera singer with heart. From debuting in the role of Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute to performing as Juliet in Capuleti e i Montecchi and Amour in Orphée and Eurydice, Brittany has already made an impression on CTO audiences and now we get to see her play the role of Susanna in Mozart’s famous masterpiece, Le Nozze di Fargo.

Brittany has been serious about opera since she was introduced to the discipline by her choir mistress and has recently spent time exploring its power to bring hope and inspiration. She holds her Postgraduate Diploma in Opera Performance at UCT and a BMus (Opera) and is an advocate for tuberculosis sufferers: once diagnosed with the disease just 4 centimeters away from her vocal cords, she makes it her mission to address the stigma still attached to the illness. I recently caught up with Brittany to share her inspirational story.

Congratulations on a fantastic career and on all that you have achieved. Why do you love being an Opera singer and could you share with us a career highlight?
Thank you! If I have to narrow down the reason, I love being an opera singer, it would be because of all the freedom I have while performing on stage. There’s nothing better than hearing the orchestra tune while you’re backstage and having the feeling like you have wings to soar high with when you sing your very first phrase. The highlight of my career was when I had to step in to sing the role of Priestess Leïla in Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. It showed me just how far I could push myself and the determination to prove to myself that I could sing a big role with only one rehearsal to walk through.

Please could you share with us your healing/recovery process from the time you were diagnosed with Tuberculosis to your recovery?
It was tough, especially since I was starting to sing the big girl roles. I remember the worst part about my recovery being the five tablets I had to take every morning for five months and then trying to keep them down. I had an amazing support system at home and from the few friends I still had. I also remember praying quite a bit – my strength came from my Maker. I was comforted by that.

How long was your recovery process?
My full recovery took six months. After that, it took a while longer to recover from the mental stress I had endured as well.

Is Tuberculosis (TB) contagious?
If untreated, TB is EXTREMELY contagious. Something as simple as speaking to someone face to face who is infected puts you at a very high risk of contracting the disease.

I can only imagine the fear that you faced with the disease being just a few centimeters away from your vocal cords. Who or what motivated you to keep fighting to get better so that you could be back on stage doing what you love?
It was actually 4 cm away from my vocal cords upon consultation with my pulmonologist and after hearing that, I came to the realisation of just how dangerous the type of TB I had, had been. I’d say my fighting spirit, my family and a lot of prayer as well as wanting to feel the freedom I felt while singing, gave me my motivation back.

As a TB survivor, what are some of the stigmas that you faced not just as an opera singer, but as a human being fighting a disease that could have potentially ended your career?
People didn’t want to touch me or come close to me and when I mentioned that I had HAD TB, they would instantly take a step back from me or put their hands over their mouths and noses so as to not catch anything from me, even after I told them that I am not contagious anymore or that I didn’t have TB anymore and that hurt. I also understood that they were not as educated on TB as they should be and that sort of made the shun a bit easier to handle.

You speak strongly about secondary stigma, what is secondary stigma and who does it come from?
Secondary stigma is when the family or friends shun you from their social circles after they have heard that you had TB. In my case, it was friends I had made in varsity, that even when I was not contagious anymore and still wore a mask to protect myself, they’d back away or just not associate themselves with me because they saw me as, and I quote, “dirty”. Unfortunately, this is the case with many TB survivors and sufferers alike. Why is that? It is that way because people are not educated enough to know and understand more about TB.

Do you think people find it taboo to talk about having/had TB?
In some communities and cultures, yes. Many TB sufferers and survivors do not want a target on their backs when it comes to opening up about the disease, so instead they don’t talk about it at all. In many cases we are judged so badly after people find out – we’re almost shamed upon. It’s actually really sad.

From the challenges and stigmas that you faced, what would you like people to take away from your story?
You can make a full recovery. Life does not stop because you’ve contracted TB. I want people to know that there are support groups that they could reach out to and that someone will welcome them with open arms because “you are not your disease.”

What can we do to educate people on Tuberculosis and to break these stigmas?
It’s this simple: Talk about Tuberculosis more. Talk until you’re blue in the face. Once people are no longer afraid of something they do not understand, the faster stigma will disappear until it is but a foreign concept.

From 06 to 15 July 2022, we get to see you live on stage performing the role of Susanna in Le Nozze Di Figaro at the Roodepoort Theatre. What can audiences expect from Susanna?
Audiences can expect a show of a lifetime. Susanna is naughty, nice, fierce and a delight…like a breath of fresh air. We need that after a 2 and a half year darkness.

Le Nozze di Figaro runs from 06 to 15 July 2022 at the Roodepoort Theatre. Tickets are R220 and are on sale through Webtickets.

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Gauteng Opera Proves That Opera Is For Everyone

On Sunday the 26th August 2018 I spent my afternoon at the opera, and this was by far no ordinary opera. It was an opera that filled the stage with amazing talent, whose angelic voices left the crowd asking for an encore. I am still new to opera, but when a performance leaves me speechless and wanting more, you must know that I thoroughly enjoyed this remarkable show. The Gauteng Opera Showcase took place at the newly build Tin Town Theatre in Ferriersdorp in Johannesburg, which is being transformed into one of the most sought after venues in the Johannesburg inner city.

Opera for Everyone

Who is the Gauteng Opera?

The Gauteng Opera is an all-round performing arts and entertainment company focusing on opera related productions, concerts and events. With the slogan “Opera for Everyone”, Gauteng Opera aims to expose opera to varied audiences with different vocal
offerings. Driven by excellence in vocal performance and theatre, Gauteng Opera prides itself in being one of the foremost nurturers of experts and proponents for quality vocal performance and theatre practitioners. The artists of Gauteng Opera always strive to challenge the conventions of art and not to be confined to the traditional operatic repertoire. Their inspiration encompasses all genres that ignite their passion.

Gauteng Opera & The Colab Network

Gauteng Opera also greatly supports education and the development of South African singers. Through sponsorships and support for the Academy, Gauteng Opera trains young talented singers without the financial support to study at accredited tertiary institutions, and provide opportunities to develop their talent and performance experience
during a three-year internship. Being involved full time with Gauteng Opera, these trainees get tutoring in the various music disciplines such as singing technique, music theory, history of music, repertoire development & piano, the operatic languages, acting and movement.

They form part of the Gauteng Opera chorus and performs regularly with the professional singers. Gauteng Opera artists have performed throughout South Africa in various concerts, events and productions with the best orchestras South Africa has to offer. They are also involved in Community work with schools and charities.

Notable concert performances include Gauteng Opera’s One Voice: An African
Celebration, annual Christmas Concerts and Forté in Concert. Opera productions include Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata in 2015, three short South African operas, performed under the banner, Cula Mzansi in 2015 and 2016, Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore in 2016 and recently, Puccini’s La Bohème at the Joburg Theatre and Durban Playhouse. These artists are very versatile and perform regularly at various types and
styles of concerts around Gauteng and leave audiences in awe at corporate functions with their powerful voices and remarkable arrangements.

Where can I go to experience the Gauteng Opera for Myself?

Gauteng Opera

Here are the details for their upcoming performances for the remainder of 2018:

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 at 19:00:
La Trinita Dinner Concert
La Trinita Restaurant, Kyalami Centre,
R200 per person, a la carte menu
Bookings: / 011 466 7949

Saturday, 29 September 2018 at 13:00:
Gauteng Opera City Walk with Flying Cows of Jozie Concert
The Market Shed @ 1Fox – Concert – free entrance
Bookings for the city walk: Josine Overdevest –

Saturday, 06 October at 15:00 & 20:00:
The Merrow Down Estate Concerts
Merry Down Country Club, Magaliesig
R150 per person
Bookings: Vera Harvey – / 083 461 0857

Saturday, 13 October 2018 at 19:00:
Rotary and CCJ Fundraising Event for GO
Country Club Johannesburg, Woodmead
R250 per person, include substantial snacks – cash bar;
Bookings: Denise Cruickshank / 011 784 0617 / 083 448 4844

Wednesday, 17 October 2018 at 19:00:
La Trinita Dinner Concert
La Trinita Restaurant, Kyalami Centre
R200 per person, a la carte menu;
Bookings: / 011 466 7949

Sunday, 21 October 2018 at 15:00:
4th Sunday Afternoon Concert
Tin Town Theatre, Ferreirasdorp
R150 per person
Bookings: Arnold Cloete – / 011 067 8001

Friday, 02 November 2018 at 19:00:
The Waterfall Hills Estate Concert
The Waterfall Hills Mature Lifestyle Community, Kayalami
R150 per person
Bookings: Sheila Irvine at / 083 461 0857

Sunday, 04 November 2018 at 13:00:
Gauteng Opera Lunch at the Market Shed at 1Fox
The Market Shed @ 1Fox – Concert – free entrance
Enquiries: Lize Millward – / 082 780 3595

Wednesday, 14 November 2018 at 19:00:
La Trinita Dinner Concert
La Trinita Restaurant, Kyalami Centre,
R200 per person, a la carte menu
Bookings: / 011 466 7949

Friday, 16 November at 19:30 and Sunday, 18 November at 15:00:
Opera Scenes – Excerpts from Martha, Die Zauberflöte and Bastien und Bastienne
Tin Town Theatre, Ferreirasdorp
R150 per person
Bookings: Arnold Cloete / 011 067 8001

Saturday, 01 December – evening (details t.b.c.):
Golden Classics 2018 – Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Gauteng Opera to perform with the Free State Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Kutlwano Masote with guest artist: Aubrey Lodewyk
Booking details to be released by mid-September

Friday, 07 December 2018 at 19:00:
Gauteng Opera celebrates Christmas at the Market Shed @ 1Fox
The Market Shed @ 1Fox – Concert – free entrance
Enquiries: Lize Millward / 082 780 3595

Gauteng Opera Showcase

In the second blog post of this two part series titled “How You Can Save the Gauteng Opera” I will be sharing with you exactly that. We have unbelievable talent in this country and I have experienced it first hand myself, but do yourself a favour and go and watch these amazing artists perform live soon.

Information Courtesy of The Colab Network

Photos By Mariola Biela.

Last Image is my Own. 

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