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South African born tenor Johan Botha, who dazzled audiences at the world’s top operatic stages in a wide range of roles, died at the age of 51 in Vienna early today, 8 September 2016. Less than a month ago, on 11 August 2016, the Cape Town Opera appointed Botha as Honorary Patron during a function at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. 

Prof Lourens van Staden, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, lauded Botha for his illustrious career and said Botha was probably one of the University’s best known and most respected Alumni. “Our deepest condolences to his wife, two sons, friends and fans all over the world,” Prof van Staden said.

Botha who is currently the most recorded South African opera singer in history, was born in Rustenburg, South Africa on 19 August 1965. At five years of age he told his father he wanted to be an opera singer and by age ten he was already taking voice lessons.

He was one of the first students to enroll for the National Diploma at the former Technikon Pretoria in 1986, which became the Tshwane University of Technology in 2004. When he graduated from the Opera School, everybody predicted an illustrious career for this young tenor in his final year of study. He was already well known for his strong work ethic, high standards and sense of humour and throughout his career, the hallmarks of his performances were refined musicianship, rock solid technique and professional discipline.

Upon completion of his studies, he made his stage debut at the municipal theatre in Roodepoort as Max in Der Freischütz in 1989. His international breakthrough came in 1993 at the Opéra Bastille as Pinkerton in Puccini's Madama Butterfly.

Since then he performed at leading opera venues around the world such as the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera which made him a Kammersänger in 2003, Opera Australia, Royal Opera House (London), La Scala, and the Salzburg Festival.

Over his 27-year career, the versatile Botha, who felt at home in operas ranging from Puccini to Wagner, appeared on most of the world’s top stages including La Scala, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the State Opera in Vienna, where he made his home.

Owing to his light but powerful voice, which displayed a fluidity that at its best knew few constraints, he was also an accomplished concert singer, appearing with orchestras including the Vienna Philharmonic and Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra under the batons of Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim and Christian Thielemann among others.

At the time of his death he lived in Vienna, Austria with his wife and two sons.

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