The A-Listers

SOCIALS | All together now - opera, food, charity

17 March 2019 - 00:00


Fancy a luscious lunch in a tranquil setting surrounded by well-heeled dames while being serenaded by an operatic voice?
That's what was on offer at the annual "Lean In, Pay It Forward" garden luncheon last Saturday.
The brainchild of Gugu Leeuw, wife of financier and industrialist Thabo, this is a fundraiser to help a different school in need each year and was held at the family's estate in the Magaliesberg, just over an hour from Joburg.
Arriving on the grounds as staff are putting finishing touches to the spread, I am given a warm welcome by Gugu, who shows me around the nearly completed property, whose sprawling grounds were designed by Patrick Watson, the landscape architect famed for creating the gardens of the Lost City at Sun City.
"This is a place where you leave your worries behind," remarks one of the guests, Nozipho Bhengu, a director at Werksmans Attorneys.
In the lounge of the home, I meet three other glamorous ladies adept at juggling family with high-powered careers - recruitment boss Ayanda Mbanga, Manati Alternate Student Funding CEO Zodwa Pakade and Zinhle Mariani, group general counsel at Hollard.
Then it's saying hello to a familiar face, Augustine Masilela-Chuene, the former beauty queen who now runs a thriving events company.
That operatic voice belongs to Nombulelo Yende, sister of the country's soprano treasure, Pretty. Nombulelo tells me her elder sister is in Paris, performing Norina in Don Pasquale at the Opera Bastille.
She, on the other hand, is completing her studies at the University of Cape Town's College of Music.
Difficult shoes to fill when your sister has been described as "a voice that can reach to the stars" by The Washington Times, but Nombulelo isn't fazed. "My teacher treats me as me. I am not under pressure," she says.
Lunch was prepared by Sandy Wood of Bellini's Restaurant fame who now runs her own catering outfit,
Sandy's Kitchen, and it is a feast that fits the setting: a harvest table featuring smoked salmon drizzled with pomegranate dressing and cumin yoghurt, Cape Malay curry with rice and poppadum shards and a host of salads.
Dessert came in the form of pavlova with seasonal fruit and fresh cream, and mouth-watering cheesecake with mango and passionfruit topping.
Sadly, things were running a little late and I couldn't stay to witness Nombulelo perform, but I hear her set, which opened with Bellini's O Quante Volte, was stirring.

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