This Queen of the Night wants her high notes to bring South Africa’s black communities and young people to the opera.

The first time Pauline Malefane went to the opera on a school excursion in Cape Town, she was completely bewildered. “We went to see Don Giovanni,and no-one really explained to us what opera was and what we were going to see, what the story was about,” the singer recalls. “So we went there as schoolkids from a poor township and listened to these foreign stories with all these costumes and these people singing instead of talking to each other and we thought, ‘my goodness, this is so boring.’

“We’d never been into a theatre before, and we were bombarded by these big glass chandeliers – I mean, you live in a shack, you don’t even have electricity, so the first 20 minutes you’re not looking on stage; you’re looking around you at all this extravagance.”

Two decades later, Malefane has taken on some of the most complex female leads in opera. She’s sung Gershwin’s  Summertimewith the Berlin Philharmonic and Simon Rattle, toured the world as a sultry Carmen, and now brings her acclaimed Queen of the Night to...