When Charles Hazlewood makes his Proms debut on Monday, it will be with a sparky programme designed to reflect how jazz has impinged on classical music, using works ranging from a new commission by Dai Fujikura, via Gershwin and Bernstein, to Ibert and Weill. But the most interesting moment will be when the "Ballad of Mack the Knife" and two other Kurt Weill songs are sung by the South African soprano Pauline Malefane - whereon hangs a tale.
Six years ago, Hazlewood and the director Mark Dornford-May were invited to trawl the townships of South Africa for hitherto unknown voices, and, after auditioning 2,000, they emerged with 40 whom they formed into a company. That company came to Wiltons Music Hall in London with The Mysteries, transferred to the West End, went back to develop more projects, and three years ago, created its first feature film in the form of a township Carmen, sung entirely in the Xhosa language, in which Malefane took the title role. Winning a Golden Bear in Berlin last year was the culmination of an incredible trajectory.
"With Weill," says Hazlewood, "you get the Ute Lemper approach - and she has many imitators who fail miserably - or the opera-singer approach, which is also terrible. Apart from her amazing vocal talent, Pauline is one of the most truthful singers I've worked with. Like so many of her compatriots, she has an ability to make a phrase speak beyond the notes and the words - it's like the representation of her soul.
"South African singers don't consciously apply vibrato - their singing is more instinctive, and the emotional line of the melody is represented through their physiognomy, so it comes out as completely heartfelt, rather than contrived.
"She will bring a new quality to Weill. We were rehearsing last week, and I think she'll knock them dead at the Albert Hall."
28 August, 3.30pm (020-7589 8212; www.bbc.co.uk/proms)Reuse content