“Onse Mimi”, South Africa’s Prima Donna.

Mimi Coertse, now in her eighties, still attends a wide variety of musical events in Pretoria, particularly operatic functions.  Every time I see her petite frame I wonder where she stored that huge soprano voice that was one of the country’s greatest artistic treasures.

Mimi Coertse

Mimi Coertse

Mimi Coertse, a coloratura soprano from an ordinary Afrikaans family, was born on 2 June 1932 in Durban.  Vienna’s State Opera is one of the world’s major opera houses and Mimi Coertse was the youngest singer in its history to be appointed to its permanent ensemble. Coerste went on to become the prima donna of the State Opera, Vienna, a post which she held for seventeen years. The Austrian Government honoured her with the title “Kammersangerin”, the Austrian equivalent of a British Dame.

Over the years she became known for singing the role of Mozart’s Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute as well as Donna Anna Don Giovanni, Donna Elvira Don Giovanni, Fiordiligi Cosi Fan Tutte, Constanza Der Entfurhrung aus dem Serail and the Countess Le Nozze di Figaro, as well as many of the bel canto favourites by Donizetti, Bellini, Puccini and Verdi. In addition she sang works by Richard Strauss, lieder, oratorios and operetta, often ending her concerts with South African works as encores. To be a master of all these different styles takes musical talent, courage and an enormous amount of hard work.

During her years in  Europe Coertse sang at various opera houses including the Teatro San Carlo, Aix-en-Provence, Athens, Barcelona, Brussels, Glyndeboure, Dusseldorf, Linz, Hamburg, Wiesbaden, Turin, Salzburg, Stuttgart and Cov.ent Garden, where she worked with conductors such as Herbert von Karajan, Karl Bohm, Vittorio Gui, Sir Malcolm Sargent, George Solti, George Szell, Lorin Maazel and Dmitri Mitropoulos.

Mimi Coertse as a young prima donna

Mimi Coertse as a young prima donna

In 1973, at the age of only 41, Mimi Coertse returned to South Africa, married and raised two children, while performing in South Africa.  

Over the years she put a great deal back into the world of music, including serving on the Board of the SABC, acting as chairperson of SAMET (South African Music Education Trust), founding the Black Tie Ensemble (now known as BTE Forte) for expanding musical opportunities for previously disadvantaged young musicians as well as founding a Mimi Coertse Bursary for students to study opera in Europe.

Mimi Coertse

Mimi Coertse

Mimi Coertse is much loved in both her home country and throughout the operatic world.


About moirads

Clergy person, theatre and music lover, avid reader, foodie. Basically, I write about what I do, where I go and things I love (or hate).
This entry was posted in Brief Biographies, Classical Music, South African Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Onse Mimi”, South Africa’s Prima Donna.

  1. Thanks for finally talking about >Onse Mimi, South Africas Prima
    Donna. | Looking at arts, culture and entertainment in Gauteng <Loved it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s