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THEATRICAL AND MUSICAL FIREWORKS (article first published : 2007-08-14)

Pyrotechnical theatre, fireworks in a contained space. The tagline was brought to life twice this week. Bravura performances abounded at Il Divo-Afrikaís Bothaís Hill Soiree on Sunday. Juan Burgers and his trio of singers, Mhlonishwa Dlamini, Mandla Mkhize and Nicholas Ndadane, delivered what was in effect a master class of recital programming, and of stage craft paired down to fit the intimate venue, delighting their small but committed audience.

If you missed them, make a note to catch them as they reprise their heady programme at Howard College Theatre on Thursday, August 23, at 19h30. On offer is a feast of showstoppers by Puccini, Verdi, Bizet, Frank, and many more, including Nkosi Albert Luthuliís touching Aria from Burgersí own opera-in-progress focusing on the life of Nelson Mandela. Also a sneak preview of the early love duet composed for Winnie and Nelson, to be performed for the first time. On the lighter side, the singersí programme includes charmers such as Catari, Torna a Surriento, O Sole Mio, Because and Olí Man River. Tickets cost R60. Booking is on 031 777 1938.

When the Playhouse Company unveiled its new staging of Terrence MacNallyís Tony Award winning play, Master Class in the Loft on Tuesday, Clare Mortimer was Maria Callas to the manner born, acerbic, vulnerable, volatile, entertaining, the diva in essence. To anyone in the audience who has watched the all-too-depressing footage of Callas in interviews, Mortimerís interpretive triumph could not have been more evident. Hats off to her director, Ralph Lawson, and designer, Neil Stuart Harris, for the delicate balance of presentation they achieved, allowing Mortimer the freedom to probe the psychological depths of the playwrightís writing, not least those dark points of abuse hinted at so painfully in the singerís private life with ĎArií.

Further plusses, to tempt you to see this production, are the vocal contributions of two of the singers, Khumbuzile Dhlamini and Mhlabuhlangene Buthelezi. The final two performances of Master Class are on Saturday, August 11, at 15h00 and 19h00. Tickets cost R70. Book on 031 369 9540.

Looking ahead to musical matters inland, Music Revival and Parklane Superspar are joining forces to present Symphony in the City, in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall on Friday September 7. This showcase of classical and popular music will feature the KZNPO conducted by Naum Rousine, with soloists the international London-based soloist Joanne Rozario (clarinet and saxophone) and popular favourites Federico Freschi (baritone) and Christopher Duigan (piano). This major event on KwaZulu-Natalís cultural calendar aims to bring back to life one of KZNís priceless cultural resource, the once-in-demand Pietermaritzburg City Hall. This Ďgrand old ladyí of a venue is renowned for its magnificent acoustics.

A dazzling concert programme has been put together for this event. This will include two movements from Mozartís Clarinet Concerto, Figaroís sparkling patter aria, Largo al factotum from Rossiniís Barber of Seville, Gershwinís much-loved Rhapsody in Blue and a selection of dance and ballet music from Johann Straussís The Blue Danube, Tchaikovskyís Swan Lake, Cole Porterís Night and Day, De-Lovely and the ever popular Riverdance. Secure parking will be provided in Church Street, at the Bessie Head Library in Freedom Square and in the Provincial Government / Tatham Gallery parking area. The concert time is 19h30 for 20h00. Tickets range from R75 to R135. To book for this prestigious event, which aims to re-launch Pietermaritzburgís City Hall back into our lives as a magnificent, cultural asset, contact Pearl at Parklane Super Spar 033 342 3487.

On the Durban music front, here are some free UKZN music lunch hour dates to note. Monday August 27 sees pianist Neil Gonsalves collaborating with musicians from Gothenburg, Sweden. This concert coincides with the release of Neil's new CD entitled North Facing - a collection of original compositions recorded in Sweden, an interesting blend of mbaqanga, church music, jazz improvisation, Nordic Cool and whatever else you hear in it.

On September 10, Durban oboe player Fia Futre, currently studying at the Lausanne Conservatoire in Switzerland, will perform Bach, Mozart and Ponchielli with instrumentalists from the UKZN School of Music. The acclaimed Carnatic vocalist Karthiegasen Pillay will be accompanied by Sivanathan Pillay (mrdangam) and Kesavan Manickum (violin) in recital on September 10.

Then on September 17, stand by for duo recitalists Luis Magalh„es and Nina Schuman with Brahms Paganini Variations and Rachmaninoff Suite No 2. Finally, on Wednesday September 19, OSCA students will show their paces in a programme of vocal items (programme details to be announced.) For more information about UKZN Music programmes, call 031 260 3353 or e-mail marid1@ukzn.ac.za




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