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BRAVISSIMO OPERA (article first published : 2006-03-26)

This evening at the Playhouse was a splendid occasion on several counts – audience members were treated to a programme of acts from famous operas, introduced to rising stars in the South African opera field and had the opportunity to experience the newly-renovated ground floor public areas of the theatre complex.

Bravissimo – Opera follows the success of Bravo –Opera presented last year by the Playhouse Company in the Opera theatre. The 2006 programme features acts from Puccini’s La Boheme and Tosca as well as Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann and Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. These excerpts contain some of the most well-known pieces of operatic music loved by opera followers the world over.

The line-up of soloists was highly impressive and included Linda Bukhosini, Beverley Chiat, Nkosazana Dimande, Selby Hlangu, Sipho Langa, Stéfan Louw, Veramarie Meyer, Mandla Mkhize, Fikile Mvinjelwa, Nicholas Ndadane, Sally Silver and Bongani Tembe– all in the sure hands of Graham Scott who conducted the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. Making his debut as an opera director was Ralph Lawson, Terrence Bray produced some stunning costumes and Irek Karamon created a variety of impressive sets (I overheard someone in the cloakroom questioning whether that was a real Persian carpet in Tosca!) while repetiteur Juan Burgers has done a fine job of preparing the singers.

Sally Silver handles the bulk of the solo work, appearing in three of the four acts, and her contribution to the programme is considerable. Formerly Sally June Gain of Durban, she now lives in London and is making a strong name for herself in contemporary opera. Her splendid voice and extensive versatility gave us three different heroines – the vivacious and volatile Musetta (La Boheme), the glamorous Giulietta (The Tales of Hoffmann) and the dignified and magnanimous Marschallin (Der Rosenkavalier).

Powerful performances came from Nkosazana Dimande as the ill-fated Tosca. Currently completing her performer’s diploma at UCT’s Opera School, she is undeniably headed for a place as one of South Africa’s top opera singers. Her performance opposite an equally impressive Fikile Mvinjelwa with Stéfan Louw as her lover was a highlight of the evening.

Beverley Chiat was a spirited Mimi with Bongani Tembe her adoring lover and Mandla Mkhize a jilted Marcello (La Boheme). Veramarie Meyer was credible in male roles traditionally taken by women. Linda Bukhosini was a charming Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier) and her duet with Sally was touching and poignant. Selby Hlangu and Nicholas Ndadane gave good performances and I was particularly impressed by Sipho Langa.

For opera lovers, Bravissimo – Opera is a musical and visual feast. For anyone wanting to get to know this music genre better, the programme offers a great opportunity to do so. As our guest for the evening remarked – “it’s the perfect starter pack”!

From the impressive marble and tiled entrance to the new seats in the Opera, the Playhouse now offers a sophisticated and upmarket experience, proving that the complex is back on track – all congratulations are due to Linda Bukhosini, recently appointed as the Playhouse Company’s Managing Artistic Director.

“The inspiration for the design of the Playhouse foyers comes from the Zulu Kraal, the rainbow colours of our country and the diverse mix of cultures in KwaZulu-Natal,” explained Playhouse Council member Rodger Ashe at a media briefing recently. The dramatic red carpet offsets mosaic columns finished in brass, leather and Nguni hide and a larger-than-life beaded artwork is resplendent above the staircase leading to the Drama theatre.

Future plans include the opening of the Zulu Jazz Lounge, formerly The Cellar. An African themed cigar lounge will replace the former Tudor Room and Piatto at the Playhouse will be the adjoining Mediterranean restaurant.

Bravissimo – Opera has performance in the Playhouse Opera on March 25, 28, 31 at 19h30 and on April 2 at15h00. Pre-booked tickets range from R35 to R85. Tickets bought at the box office an hour before curtain-up range from R50 to R100. Book at Computicket on 083 915 8000 or Playhouse Dial-A-Seat on 031 369 9596/9540. – Caroline Smart




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