About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

29 April 2011

Winnie the Opera

A brand new opera, based on one of the most colourful (and controversial) politicians in South Africa; had its premiere at the South African State Theatre, last night. The venue was symbolic, as Winnie herself commented "was one of the institutions we tried hard to bomb", after the show in a vote of thanks to the cast and crew.

Any biographical art piece on a living subject, particularly a polarising subject, is difficult - and in my opinion, the opera failed. The opera focused quite a bit on the TRC proceedings and the Stompie Seipei incident, which the TRC itself judged "Ms Winnie Madikizela Mandela politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the MUFC" (see the Wikipedia article). However, there was little focus on what made Winnie out to be the "Mother of the Nation", and what makes her a strong politician. In fact, Winnie Mandela's vote of thanks to the cast and crew after the show, provided far more insights to her ability as a politician than the opera itself.

My other criticism of the opera revolves around the lyrics - perhaps it is because of the language (most of it was in English), but the lyrics just didn't sound musical - and did not give any one character, particularly Winnie, any real solo parts to really show of their skills.

That said, the opera did have a number of high points. The production was spectacular in terms of costumes, set design, excellent score and the various use of video projections were stunning. The individual performances were also impressive - and the three main characters, Tsakane Maswangayi (as Winnie Mandela), Otto Maidi (as Columbus) and Pierre du Toit (as Major Swanepoel), coupled with some impressive backing performances.

There is a very limited run right now (5 shows), and the opera is comparatively short (only 90 minutes), and the performances well worth supporting. Perhaps, the opera was designed with popular audience in mind; hence the shorter duration with less focus on the broader story. While I wouldn't watch it again, it was certainly an enjoyable performance.

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