‘The Sound of Music’ Brittany has unquenchable passion for music

Henry

Brittany Smith’s life story almost sounds like something out of a book or movie. She was bullied at school because she sang in the choir, she has five grades of music theory in gr. 11 to be able to apply to study opera, and as a 21-year-old she had to struggle through a six-month recovery process after contracting tuberculosis.

This 29-year-old opera singer plays the role of Maria von Trapp in the iconic musical The Sound of Music which is currently on the stage of the Teatro at Montecasino in Johannesburg.

‘I’m going to be Maria one day’

This is not the first time that Brittany has appeared on stage as a character The Sound of Music not. She played one of the Von Trapp children in her primary school years, and already knew then that one day she would make a return to this musical.

“I can’t even remember which child I was,” she tells RNews in her dressing room at the Teatro.

“I do remember telling myself that one day when I grow up I will return as Maria.”

The Sound of Music already had a stage in November and December in the Kunstekaap Theater in Cape Town. In the few months that she has been playing the role of Maria, she admits that she has already learned a lot about this character.

“My biggest challenge was to find a way to show Maria’s defenselessness, without giving up too much of myself. I had to realize that I had to combine my own defenselessness with that of Maria,” she says.

“During this time, I really figured out who she is as a character, because she is so complex. She is mature, even if she comes this before. This is why she is such a beloved character, everyone can relate to her in one way or another.”

Brittany was born and raised in Cape Town, and matriculated at Rynse Hoër Meisieskool in Stellenbosch. Today she is at home on stage and in the world of musical theatre, but was bullied as a primary school girl because she sang in the choir.

When she thinks of this young girl today, she knows that she would watch with a huge smile as the adult version of herself lives out a huge dream.

“If I ever have to meet my young self, I would just tell her to keep believing that she can achieve what she dreams of.”

‘Can’t live without music’

Classical music transported Brittany to other worlds from an early age. It was where she still finds peace and calm in the mad rush of life today.

However, what she knew about classical music at the time was that she liked it, and that was it. When a diligent choir teacher taught her in gr. 9 closer to being part of the choir again, and later encouraged to study opera, she just laughed and thought: “This teacher doesn’t know how little I actually know about classical music.”

However, a basic level of knowledge in music theory was necessary if she wanted to apply to study opera at the University of Cape Town (UK). Thus began six months of toil and sweat to complete five music degrees at Unisa.

“Don’t ask me how I did it, because I don’t know,” she jokes.

At this stage of her life she knew: her future lay in opera and classical music. However, after her audition at UK to be officially selected to study opera, she thought she was going to have to say goodbye to the dream. The head of the school for opera got up in the middle of her audition and walked out.

However, before the anxiety really took hold of her, she received the e-mail that she had been selected to study a BMus degree in opera under the direction of Virginia Davids.

She has been working at Cape Town Opera as a solo singer since 2018, and in her career has performed in operas such as Le nozze di Figoro, L’elisir d’amor, Les pêcheurs de perles and La traviata sung. She also received a Fleur de Cap award for her performance The wedding of Figoro receive.

Almost over before it started

At 21, Brittany once again thought her career as an opera singer was over.

She collapsed during a performance due to shortness of breath. She was then rushed to the hospital, where she was repeatedly told that she had bronchitis and even asthma.

However, she insisted that this is not all that bothers her, and that she knows her body better than anyone else. A Cape pulmonologist was the first to confirm her fears: it was either cancer or tuberculosis.

After an endoscopy, it was confirmed that she had endotracheal tuberculosis, and that it had lain dormant in her airway for an indefinite period of time. However, the endoscopy caused the blisters that had formed on her windpipe to burst, which led to a two-week hospitalization, and a six-month recovery process.

At times she was so sick that her family had to help her shower, and so contagious that her family had to walk around the house in protective clothing and she could not leave her room. It was a very lonely six months, she remembers.

In the six months of recovery, she was also on a strong dose of antibiotics, which led to further liver problems. However, one day Brittany got out of bed and said until here and no further – she’s not one to lie down.

She jumped into the pool to her family’s joy and decided that she was not going to let this disease lock her down any longer.

Almost 30, but she is not afraid

Brittany will turn 30 later this year, something that initially scared her. However, she admits that she has changed her mind about that age, and that she is actually looking forward to entering her 30s.

“They say that every 29 years something big happens in your life. For me it was the fact that both my parents had cancer in the last seven years,” she says.

“It made me realize how valuable and important life and your family are. It also made me realize that you have to put the ugliness of life behind you, and just love.

On her way to 30, she also experienced how her faith and love for the Lord grew.

“When I get anxious, I just shut up, close my dressing room door, and get down on my knees. Sometimes all I say is ‘Lord, I need You’. When I walk out here, I am calm and pray for everyone on stage.

“As my mother always says, I then ‘get under the blood for everyone’.”

She also now, as an almost 30-year-old, feels like a full-fledged woman. She has always thought that she is a woman, but now, in her late 20s, she has a different kind of certainty in that fact.

“I have so much life experience, I will be the same person, but with a completely different outlook on life. And I’m so excited for the road ahead of me.”