Ubuntu – The Opera: A world premiere

Durban’s Playhouse will be the scene of a major landmark on the South African arts calendar this month with the world premiere season of Ubuntu – The Opera by Juan Burgers. Funded by the National Lotteries Commission and presented under the auspices of Esayidi FET College in collaboration with Bravo Africa Entertainment, the production will be given five performances in the Playhouse Opera Theatre between 17 and 22 November 2015.

Burgers’ creation is presented as a 21st anniversary salute to South Africa’s democracy, offering a magnificent showcase of some of the country’s finest operatic talent. Set to a score underpinned by the composer’s strong melodic drive and his bent for richly conceived vocal and orchestral writing, the heroic work is written in two acts with a prologue.

Burgers’ stirring libretto focuses on key events in the years of struggle against apartheid, with the iconic roles of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as its inspiring figureheads. Their marriage as seen in the context of the opera proves to be the catalyst against which the broader backdrop of the struggle is depicted. They share the stage with other great struggle icons such as Inkosi Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki, among others.

Aside from the principal cast, the production features a powerhouse chorus of some 60 singers performing with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Lykele Temmingh. With Burgers as its creative and artistic director, vocal coach and repetiteur and Raphael Vilakazi as its executive producer, Ubuntu – The Opera is directed, designed and choreographed by David Krugel.

Principal casting includes the rising young soprano Charlotte Mhlongo as Gaia, with tenors Thamsanqa Mqaba and Simphiwe Mkhatshwa alternating in the pivotal role of Ubuntu, who remains on stage throughout the opera. Baritones Monde Masimini and Njabulo Mthimkhulu share the role of Nelson Mandela.

Sopranos Khumbuzile Dlamini and Nomsa Mpofu alternate in the role of Winnie Mandela; baritones Musa Ndadane and Thamsanqa Khaba share the role of Albert Luthuli, Richard Salmon plays Judge Quartus de Wet; Raimondo van Staden appears as Bram Fischer, and tenor Cobus Venter sings the role of the public prosecutor, Percy Yutar.

Tickets range from R120 to R230 (pensioners, students and scholars pay R90). Block bookings of 10 or more qualify for a 10% discount, block booking of 20 or more benefit from a 20% discount off ticket prices. Tickets are available at Computicket at Shoprite Checkers outlets, telephonically on 0861 915 8000 or online at www.computicket.com. Alternatively, call the Playhouse box office on 031 369 9540 (office hours).

Ubuntu – The Opera has an age restriction of 13 years due to graphic scenes depicted on stage. For updates about the production and its team, visit www.ubuntutheopera.net.

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