Modern African classic gets lavish opera treatment

Modern African classic gets lavish opera treatment

Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Cape Town Opera and Magnet Theatre will be present a musical adaptation of celebrated novelist Zakes Mda’s ‘Heart of Redness’ at The Fugard Theatre from Wednesday to Saturday, August 19 to 22.

In 2001, the book won the Sunday Times Fiction Award, and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Africa. “The novel is a unique exploration of history, a celebration of love and nature, and a profound comment on our future”, Oxford University Press has noted.

This production brings together a formidable team, namely renowned composer Neo Muyanga; UCT Drama Department Professor Mark Fleishman (in the director’s seat); Craig Leo (designer) and Jennie Reznek (movement director). “The book suggests lots of musical styles, with a particular kind of bushman music being elicited,” says Muyanga, adding that the integration of Xhosa and Bushman families create a particular sound.

“This is the full realisation of what was a kind of model in 2013. The first version in 2013 was about 90 minutes and that was only Act 1. The 2015 version is the whole story, with a completely new staging design by Craig Leo,” says Fleishman about the evolution of the production.

This 2015 version features six actors and nine singers and a small musical ensemble which, according to the director, “means that the musical score is more developed, more complex, more fully realised.”

So, for those that might be wondering: is ‘Heart of Redness’ a musical, or a fully realised opera?

“This is a hard one. I know that it is being billed as a musical version, but I don’t want anyone to interpret this as it being like a Broadway Musical – it is not,” says Fleishman.

“It has elements of the operatic, elements of the choral, elements of the traditional. Overall it is hard to define and package neatly under a single unambiguous descriptor. And that is exactly what we are trying to achieve – a something in–between that takes cognisance of various styles without settling comfortably into any one of them.”

* Tickets can be purchased via Computicket.