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BIRTH OF AN AFRICAN OPERA (article first published : 2001-04-1)

In what must rank as one of the most important turning points in modern South African culture, Opera Africa will present The Birth of an African Opera this month.

The world-renowned company has for the past two years been hard at work on the Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu opera, a musical undertaking of major significance. For the first time, opera will be given a quintessentially African character in the tale of a timeless African legend. The “classical” and “elitist” art form of opera has been radically re-invented to give it a new energy and appeal that celebrates African identity in unique and vibrant fashion.

This unprecedented undertaking realises the spirit of the African Renaissance by utilising the emotional intensity and lyrical sophistication of opera to tell a gripping and moving tale of a singular South African nature.

The epic story of the fabled Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu is ideal for the dramatic sweep of opera and the most gifted and esteemed members of South Africa’s creative community have been assembled to tell it. Internationally renowned singer Sibongile Khumalo (herself personally acquainted with Princess Magogo as a child) will take the title role; Mzilikazi Khumalo has written the original score based on the Princess’ songs; Themba Msimang and Duma Ndlovu have co-written the script, and artist Andrew Verster has designed the sets and costumes.

WMTF Radio and Networks in Chicago (Durban’s sister city) will make a live recording of the Birth of an African Opera which is to be presented at the Playhouse in April 18, as well as an extensive documentation of the World Premiere. Representatives from the BBC and Australian television are also gearing up to document the event.

The event is not so much a preview of the opera but a unique insight into a work-in-progress which, when complete, is set to have an unprecedented impact on the African cultural scene. The gala event will also feature a 90-strong choir in full costume.

More details from Opera Africa on (031) 261-6708.




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