W illiam Kentridge first came across opera as a child, listening to the records that his father played in their sitting room in Johannesburg – and clearly they made an impression.

Kentridge’s Wozzeckat the 2017 Salzburg Festival. Photo © Ruth Walz

“When I was 15 and when we had to say at school what activity we wanted to follow when we were an adult, foolishly I said that I wanted to be a conductor of operas. And then somebody said to me, but you understand that if you want to be a conductor you have to be able to read music. ‘Oh’, I said, ‘I hadn’t realised that, I’d better change my ambition’. So, directing operas is as close as I will ever get to that 15-year-old’s ambition,” he says.

Kentridge is one of South Africa’s most prominent visual artists, whose distinctive work is exhibited at leading galleries and museums around the world. He has a studio in the Johannesburg home where he grew up, where he now lives with his Australian wife Anne Stanwix (their three children are grown-up) and another bigger downtown studio...