EX CATHEDRA | Themba Mvula - Bass

From our ‘King for a Day’ programme 2022

Born and raised in Zambia, baritone Themba Mvula discovered a passion for classical music while at secondary school in North Wales. He went on to study at Birmingham Conservatoire and is now enjoying an exciting and varied career as an opera singer.

Themba’s operatic roles include Schaunard (La bohème, English Touring Opera), Marullo (Rigoletto, Opera North), Le Dancaïre (Carmen, Opera Holland Park), The Engineer (Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Birmingham Opera), and Belcore (The Elixir of Love, King’s Head Theatre). He sang Frazier (Porgy and Bess) for Theatre an der Wien, and was a soloist and ensemble member in the Olivier Award-winning production for English National Opera. In 2021 he sang in recital with Roderick Williams at the Brighton Festival as part of the Momentum initiative.

He has performed a number of contemporary works too including the title role in Bhekizizwe by Robert Fokkens and Mkhululi Mabija in a filmed production for Opera Ddraig which premiered on the BBC and will go on tour in autumn 2022. He also starred as Vithobai in The Life to Come by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry for Surrey Opera. Themba has worked on a range of education and community projects with organisations including WNO, Birmingham Opera Company and Pegasus Opera Company. He is the musical director of Lichfield Gospel Choir and was shortlisted with the choir for the RPS Inspiration Award in 2021. He also conducted the mass choir for the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

1. How long have you been a member of Ex Cathedra and why did you join?

I first sang with Ex Cathedra back in 2006 when I was an undergrad at Birmingham Conservatoire. I joined because Jeffrey asked me to! I remember being completely blown away by the sound the choir produced at my first rehearsal and I feel very lucky to have been part of the group since.

2. What does a typical day look like for you?

There is no such thing as a typical day for me. I perform a lot of opera so my days look very different depending on if I’m learning music by myself at home, in rehearsals with a company, or in the middle of a run of shows and even on tour. I really enjoy the constant change.

3. If you could choose to perform again any piece that you have performed before with Ex Cathedra, what would it be, and why?

Earthrise by Alec Roth. It’s the most incredible piece: the rhythmic motifs, the sublime and overlapping harmonies, the soaring melodies … it’s just stunning! Sends shivers down my spine every time. I’m so chuffed to have sung in the world premiere and on the recording.

4. What’s your musical “guilty secret”?

No guilty secrets. I enjoy all types of music from pop to R&B, gospel to jazz, folk to opera! It’s gotta have something about it of course, but nothing is off limits!