Cape Town Opera will be presenting ‘The Merry Widow of Malagawi’ at the Opera House at Artscape, in Cape Town from September 5 to 12.
Director Janice Honeyman, famous for her pantomimes, children’s theatre and celebrated drama, musical and opera productions, has transferred Franz Lehar’s beloved ‘Lustige Witwe’ from the Balkan kingdom of Pontevedria to an equally fictitious sophisticated modern state somewhere north of us. Birrie le Roux’s chic costumes, Michael Mitchell’s expansive sets together with Mannie Manim’s lighting create the background for the story of how rich widow Hanna Glawari ensnares her former lover Count Danilo, who pointedly ignores her to avoid being regarded as one of her gold digging admirers. And for a light touch, look out for comedian Alan Committee in the role of Njegus.
Q&A with Janice Honeyman:
Is the switch from musicals to pantomimes to operas easy? When did you first direct an opera and which opera was it?
I enjoy varying which genre I work within, and whether it is Drama, Opera, Musicals, Children’s Theatre or Pantomime, I always have a ball while I’m working on any of them. Each one becomes my “current favourite”. The style and approach to each project is totally specific though, taking cognizance of the writer’s or composer’s intentions, the material, and also the individuality of the performers with whom I am creating the production.
The first opera I directed was in the late eighties, or the early nineties – ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’, then ‘The Turk in Italy’, ‘Carmen Jones’, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, operettas ‘La Belle Helene’, ‘Die Fledermaus’ and ‘Candide’. I’ve been lucky. And Cape Town Opera has been good to me.
Have you kept count of the number of productions you’ve directed to date? If so, how many productions have you done?
I haven’t had time between productions to add up all the shows I’ve done to my list. But I have been directing since 1970s, for 45 years. And have done over 200 productions all in all.
The classic story of ‘The Merry Widow’ is returning to Cape Town but this time with a slightly new look and twist. What can we expect with ‘The Merry Widow of Malagawi’?
We are not only giving ‘The Merry Widow’ a new look; we are re-locating the piece to “Malagawi”, and giving it a totally contemporary “High African Fashion” feel. It’s interesting that the week we started rehearsals was also this year’s African Fashion Week in London, so I believe we’re right up to date. Birrie Le Roux and I, who have worked together often and with great enjoyment of our creative exploration, have had an intriguing time exploring Google, Pinterest and many current African magazines – economic, environmental, those dealing with Women’s issues and concerns, and Fashion coverage, not only for the visual feast they offer, but for absorbing current African events relevant to the original ‘Merry Widow’. It’s amazing how many of the events, politics and attitudes correspond.
How does this production differ to the original production of The Merry Widow?
What is the “original production” we all refer to? I suppose a traditionally Euro-centric approach, a theatrical reconstruction staying absolutely faithful to the music and the libretto of the original, and sticking to the particular style of the original production – much, I suppose, like ballets being presented with the original choreography, as opposed to fresh interpretations of the old classics. We’re not reproducing a stuffy old classic.
* Cape Town Opera’s Fabulous Operetta Show and Stay Packages – ‘The Merry Widow of Malagawi’
Show and Stay package, at one of Cape Town’s finest hotels and theatres is priced at R2000 for 2 adults sharing.
Each package includes:
One night’s accommodation for 2 persons sharing
Full English buffet breakfast for 2
2 First tier tickets to ‘The Merry Widow of Malagawi’ and a complimentary souvenir programme
Complimentary bottle of sparkling wine on arrival in your room
Complimentary transport to and from ‘The Merry Widow of Malagawi’ at Artscape.
Book at Computicket
For more information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.