INFERNO and ARCADIA: From the depths of hell to the Elysian Fields


Umculo presents breathtaking baroque arias with a striking visual twist, in a daring mix of vocal virtuosity and trailblazing digital technology! Leveraging the power of realtime rendering found in modern PC game engines, director Kobie van Rensburg places rising-star tenor, Siyabonga Maqungo, inside completely digital environments. From the depths of a very personal purgatory to the bucolic fields of Arcadian bliss, this project showcases the wide-ranging possibilities of digital sets and virtual production for the operatic stage. When Covid-19 lockdown measures deprive us of a real physical stage, Umculo takes the opportunity to show that a virtual digital stage is within the grasp of young South-African artists, by using only consumer cameras, readily available computer equipment and completely free software! The public also gets the opportunity to see how this was done with a revealing glimpse behind the scenes! Some of the digital assets used in this production will also be available for download to kickstart the endeavours of young SA artist.





  • Genre: Opera& Digital Musical Theatre
  • Format: Video
  • Duration: 3 x 5mins
  • Language: English
  • Ages: All ages
  • Available From: July 5, 2020


Tenor: Siyabonga Maqungo
Director: Kobie van Rensburg
Accompanied by the UMCULO Ensemble  (Leader:  Cathi Aglibut, Continuo: Sabine Erdmann)
Sound: Gert Müller


Kobie van Rensburg studied Law and International Politics in Potchefstroom before embarking on an international career as a lyric tenor. He regularly collaborated with conductors such as René Jacobs, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Christopher Hogwood, Christophe Rousset, Lorin Maazel and James Levine at such renowned houses as the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Berlin-, Munich-, and Stuttgart State Theatres, San Francisco, Seattle, the Théâtre du Châtelet and the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris and the Teatro Real in Madrid. He recorded several prizewinning CD’s (Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording 2004 and Gramophone Record of The Year Award 2004) and DVD Recordings of Monteverdi, Händel, Mozart, and Rossini Operas.
Since 2007 he has increasingly focused on directing and teaching.  His critically acclaimed productions of operas in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Croatia have pioneered the use of animated surtitles and live chromakeying for the operatic stage.
He is deeply committed to the development of opera in South Africa, especially in underprivileged communities and since 2015 he has been serving as the Director of the UMCULO Opera Incubator. UMCULO explores the potential of opera as a means of social development in South African townships. His work in this field has also been nominated for several awards and received the 2017 Rotterdam Opertagen Award, the International Opera Award in 2019 and the ClassicalNext Award for Innovation.
Siyabonga Maqungo earned his Bachelor’s degree at the University of North West (Potchefstroom Campus), where he already sang the role of Acis in “Acis und Galatea” directed by Kobie van Rensburg. It was the first South African performance of a Händel Opera with period instruments.  Through the International Mozart Festival in Johannesburg, the Apollo Music Trust and the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, Siyabonga was awarded a scholarship  to study at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln, where  he  earned a Master’s degree with distinction.
After engagements at several German opera houses including Leipzig, Chemnitz and Meiningen, as well as guest appearances as far afield as Sao Paulo and Shanghai, the young tenor made his debut als David in Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin under Daniel Barenboim and was nominated as “Young Singer of the Year” at the International Opera Awards in London in 2019.
This season he is joining the ensemble of the German State Opera in Berlin, but Siyabonga still finds time to regularly give concerts all over South Africa with Richard Cock and the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra.