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 costumes, Michael Mitchell’s 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.
Part II of our Q&A with Janice Honeyman:
When you embark on a quest to reinvent or restage an opera, how do you decide on what stays and what goes what the new direction will be and are you aware that there will be those who are determined not to accept your interpretation?
Opera, and certainly Operetta started as a “popular” art form, and captured the public imagination, sometimes in Palaces, sometimes in local Music Halls – meeting, eating, drinking, and generally enjoying the outing. Think of Mozart, Schikeneder and ‘The Magic Flute’, or the crowded and noisy Opera Houses in Italy, or the Zarzuela venues in Spain. People booed, cheered, shouted and stamped for the music, their favourite heroines, their best villains – the characters, and the look. It was only later that these genres became formalized, exclusive, and sometimes possibly somewhat pretentious.
I, as a theatre-maker, have always been concerned with audiences, the people who enjoy performance, pay for their tickets and come to the Theatre or Opera House to have a good time. And in my various forays into writing, adapting, re-producing established works, and directing I have always seemed to keep “the common touch”. Of course there are going to be Purists who disapprove of my work, but I hope to give audiences something new, unusual and unpredictable.
Is the music very different or can we expect to hear the same celebrated Lehar music?
As far as the music is concerned, there is no point in re-inventing a wheel that has rolled along so consistently and successfully for over a hundred years. Lehar was a genius in the Operetta genre, and it is his well-loved tunes which audiences come to hear – we wouldn’t dream of abandoning that. But we are creating an “Onstage Band” made up of a few musicians and Chorus members who will be playing percussion, shakers, and elaborating on Lehar vocally, in a recognizable African style. Sue Cock has arranged various of the original tunes for this purpose. These will be in inserted as underscoring to dialogue scenes, used as link music, and at times as additions to the Lehar score. But we are certainly staying faithful to Lehar’s music, and Tim Murray will be conducting the Cape Town Philharmonic in the lush, tuneful original.
How does the process differ from directing actors to directing opera singers?
Performers are performers, whatever, and I love going through the creative process with them. In any style or genre the performers are “It”, and as it’s them up there doing it, they deserve all the care and respect I can give them. I love all performers, and take my hat off to their courage. And if I can give them a good time, I know they will in turn be able to give an audience a good time too.
* Cape Town Opera’s Operetta Show and Stay Package for ‘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.