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South African opera star dies on eve of World Cup ceremony performance

Siphiwo Ntshebe with Nelson Mandela

The South African opera singer specially chosen by Nelson Mandela to sing at the opening ceremony of the World Cup next month, has died. Siphiwo Ntshebe died from meningitis, his record label Epic Records has announced.

The 34-year-old, who was chosen by Nelson Mandela to perform at the opening ceremony, was admitted to hospital last week and died on Tuesday in Port Elizabeth.

Ntshebe was due to perform his new track ‘Hope’ at the opening ceremony on June 11, which was to be released – along with his new album – at the same time of the World Cup, to coincide with the football tournament.

His poweful voice had won him acolades from around the world and he was regularly compared to the late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Ntshebe grew up in poverty before being talent spotted singing in a church at the age of 16.

He was offered a scholarship to join the choral programme at the University of Cape Town and later won a scholarship to study at The Royal College of Music in London.
Nick Raphael of Epic Records said: “He had a truly wondrous voice and his music was unique in its melodies and its messages of hope and compassion.”

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in a message of condolence to Ntshebe’s family: “I am very sad indeed to hear this news.”
“This young man, whose talent had been identified and supported by no less than Nelson Mandela was about to showcase that talent to millions of people around the world. That he should pass away so suddenly, and so close to the opening of the first FIFA World Cup to be hosted on African soil is very cruel, but we are not master of our destiny.”

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