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PRINCESS MAGOGO (article first published : 2002-04-15)

Whilst South Africa is only just waking up to the possibility of cross-pollinating its cultural diversities, the musical importance of the Princess Magogo opera has certainly not escaped international media.

Commissioned and produced by Opera Africa with principal sponsors Shell Southern Africa, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the City of Durban, who is also presenting the production, Princess Magogo is an indigenous opera in three acts based on the life of Princess Constance Magogo kaDinuzulu, the mother of Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Without trying to Africanise opera as a genre, Opera Africa seeks to try and give opera a new voice, bringing it back to its roots in its popular appeal to the ordinary man in the street. While opera producers the world over look for a new vision, Opera Africa is finding its own way. This has been demonstrated in the past with repertory operas such as The Magic Flute, Carmen and Faust.

Opera Africa’s new approach to their productions has much impressed the international musical scene. The live satellite broadcast of the premiere of Princess Magogo has dislodged a Chicago Lyric Opera production which ordinarily would have been broadcast in the same slot by the European Broadcasting Union.

The date of the première, May 4 2002 was also crucial for WFMT Radio and TV Networks, Chicago’s scheduling, as it dovetails with the close of the Metropolitan Opera season a few short weeks before. Placing Opera Africa’s production of Princess Magogo alongside these internationally renowned and respected Opera companies lends real credibility and musical gravitas to the project which it so richly deserves.

The significance of Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu as a composer, musician and authority on Zulu music is a powerful topic for an opera. Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu was born in 1900 at the Usuthu royal residence at Nongoma and is a direct descendant of Zulu royal lineage. She is the daughter of King Dinuzulu and the late mother of Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi. She showed exceptional talent as a singer, music composer, musician and player of the ugubhu (musical bow) and her virtuosity is still treasured and loved by many African classicists.

Princess Magogo was composed by Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo and the librettist is African academic Themba Msimang. Each member of the musical and artistic team involved in the production is South African and a respected professional in their fields. Former Durban City music advisor Michael Hankinson returns to the city of which he is so fond to contribute in the composition of additional orchestrated music. He will also arrange and orchestrate all the musical accompaniments for the opera.

Supported by a young cast of African singers, popular and renowned diva Sibongile Khumalo will play the lead role. Her father, the late Khabi Mngoma, was the inspiration behind the Princess Magogo project.

More details from Janet Mitchell, Opera Africa Publicity/PR, phone 011 402-3310, Fax 011 402-2917 or e-mail: jmi@iafrica.com




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