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Cape Town Opera’s new works are proudly African

Cape Town Opera has teamed up with some of SA’s leading creative artists to produce two proudly African works, which are being funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. A young cast, which includes Magnet Theatre and UCT drama graduates, and some of the young Cape Town Opera members, have come together under the direction of Mark Fleishman to create a musical version of the Zakes Mda novel Heart Of Redness. Renowned composer and librettist Neo Muyanga found inspiration in the novel and adapted it into an opera. Movement direction is by Jennie Reznek and design by Craig Leo.

Shortlisted for the prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize, Heart Of Redness tells a story of South African village life against the backdrop of a notorious episode from the country’s past. Camugu, who left for America during apartheid, has returned to Johannesburg. Disillusioned by the problems of the new democracy, he travels to the remote Eastern Cape where, in the 19th century, a teenage prophetess named Nonqawuse commanded the Xhosa people to kill their cattle and burn their crops, promising that once they did so the spirits of their ancestors would rise and drive the occupying English into the ocean. The failed prophecy split the Xhosa into Believers and Unbelievers, dividing brother from brother, wife from husband, with devastating consequences. One hundred and fifty years later, the two groups’ descendants are at odds over plans to build a vast casino and tourist resort in the village, and Camugu is soon drawn into their heritage and their future.

The Merry Widow Of Malagawi is a light-hearted theatrical and musical exploration of diplomatic intrigue, capitalism and how people protect their wealth and self- interests.

The themes prevalent in Lehar’s early 20th century Viennese operetta – womens’ suffrage, the growth of industrialism and the movement from rural to urban economies – mirror many contemporary situations on our continent. Acclaimed director, Janice Honeyman will give this new production an upbeat and contemporary feel, contextualizing what has become the new vibrant, wealthy and internationally connected middle/upper class in Malagawi. Tim Murray will conduct the versatile Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, costume designs are by Birrie le Roux, set design by Michael Mitchell, lighting by Mannie Manim and choreography by Sean Bovim. The lovely British soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn, who is currently based in Magdeburg in Germany will sing the role of Hannah Glawari and alongside her is the absolutely radiant Filipa van Eck as Valencienne.

These projects were in part made possible by a grant of R5.7m to Cape Town Opera for the creation of new South African productions from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF).

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