Gauteng Opera has committed to celebrating South African operas as part of their mission statement moving forward. Cula Mzansi is the beginning of a wonderful series, which will mean pursuing the creation of a new opera every year in Gauteng, to share with the world our wonderful stories. Gauteng Opera CEO, Marcus Desando chose to start this series with operas that have already debuted in Cape Town, as an introduction: Hani (composed by Bongani Ndodana-Breen and directed by Warona Seane), Tronkvoël (composed by Peter Klatzow and directed by Tshepo Ratona) and Words from a broken string (composed by Martin Watt and directed by Marcus Desando). The orchestra will be conducted by Graham Scott.
Hani uses the slain anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani as an embodiment of all those who lost their lives fighting injustice. It is set in the dead of the night in the study of a writer (The Librettist) who, in an extended monologue recalls his personal encounter with Hani while in exile in Los Angeles. The writer enters a dream-like state where he encounters a Soothsayer, an ImBongi (a praise singer) and a chorus of ancestors. Woven in with this metaphor of bravery, sacrifice (Hani), the libretto compares the masses in our young democracy to the Panther in Rilke’s poem – powerful yet paralysed.
Tronkvoël is inspired by an event that occurred during the imprisonment of the South African poet, painter, and freedom fighter, Breyten Breytenbach in Pretoria Central. The opera attempts to stage this sequence of events against the backdrop of the struggle for freedom during the apartheid regime. Breytenbach’s prison poetry voices his own circumstances, as well as those of the oppressed in his country. By combining his poetry with the universal language of music (from African, European, and Asian origins alike), this opera is an endeavour to relate to people universally, who endure the misgivings of humanity and the world.
Words from a broken string tells the story of Lucy Lloyd, the 19th century linguist, who with her brother-in-law Wilhelm Bleek recorded the now extinct language of the San Bushmen. The opera relates the relationship that Lucy forms with convicted San men who are brought to her house to tend to the garden. The cast includes Coert Grobelaar, Natalie Bath, Phenye Modiane, Khumbuzile Dhlamini, Elizabeth Lombard and Kagiso Boroko.