Cape of Good Opera

I’ve been making an effort to go to more Juilliard concerts lately, so I saw the New Juilliard Emsemble‘s concert on contemporary South African composers on Monday, programmed to complement Carnegie Hall’s current South African performing arts themed Ubuntu Festival.  It was an interesting sampler of seven living composers, ranging in age from 65 to 36.

CarnegieHall-UBUNTUNow, you know me, always looking for the operatic connection, and this performance had a couple of oblique ones.  Andile Khumalo‘s “Shades of Words” for ensemble and spoken word narrator set poetry by countrywoman Alexandra Zelman-Doring; Michael Blake‘s “Rural Arias” was composed for the eerily voice-like singing saw (though it can also be performed by a plain ol’ soprano).

That being said, only one composer’s bio made any mention of opera and that was Bongani Ndodana-Breen.

His site lists five operas, including his most recent, the 2011 bio-opera Winnie, about Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the activist and politician in the South African liberation movement who was married to Nelson Mandela‘s during his 27 years in prison and served as his public face in that time.

Given what I heard of his music at Juilliard, I’d certainly be curious to hear one of his operas!  For the more classically minded, there’s another South African take on opera in New York, through November 9th, at the New Victory Theater.

The Magic Flute by Isango Ensemble, at New Victory Theater

The Magic Flute by Isango Ensemble, at New Victory Theater

Isango Ensemble from Cape Town takes pieces from the Western canon and recontextualizes them through a South African lens, bringing in actors and musicians from local townships.  They’ve turned their eye on opera several times, including La Boheme and Carmen, but it’s their version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute that they’ve brought to New York!

The New Victory Theater is all about all ages, family friendly theater; they’re advertising this show as appropriate for audiences 8+, so take your favorite little one!

This was an interesting subject, so I might just have another post on South African opera in me!


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