What will you be doing for Mandela Day 2018? One option to celebrate the Mandela centenary is to take in a performance of Mandela Trilogy: A musical tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela’, at Artscape on July 17 and 18.
Cape Town Opera produced the world premiere of ‘African Songbook: A Tribute to the Life of Nelson Mandela’ at Artscape Opera House on June 17, 2010. The work was conceived in celebration of Nelson Mandela in the run up to his 92nd birthday, and to serve as a cultural showpiece concurrent with the 2010 World Cup Soccer tournament in South Africa. After its premiere, the show’s title was changed to Mandela Trilogy. Since 2004 Cape Town Opera has successfully toured its productions of Gershwin’s ‘Porgy & Bess’, Kern’s ‘Show Boat’, and Joplin’s ‘Treemonisha’ to many opera houses in Europe. ‘Mandela Trilogy’ is a truly home-brewed production that highlights the unique and forceful sound of the African voice.
Mandela Trilogy employs a unique fusion of traditional Xhosa songs, jazz tunes and modern music in honour of one of the world’s most inspiring statesmen. The work consists of three acts – an encounter with traditional rural music, a jazz musical and an opera – representing the diversity of expression in contemporary South Africa.
Composers Peter Louis van Dijk, Mike Campbell and librettist, Michael Williams, collaborated to musically identify and complement different phases of Mandela’s life, providing three singers with an opportunity to portray the complex aspects of his personality.
Van Dijk explores Mandela’s teenage years setting the first act in rural Qunu, culminating in the young man’s initiation into adulthood and his decision to leave his village for the bright lights of Johannesburg.
The jazz musical of the second act – ‘Sophiatown Rising’ – was composed by Mike Campbell. The vibrant life of 1950s Sophiatown falls under the shadow of the apartheid security forces. The Jig Club dance hall frequented by Mandela is closed down, and its guests are forced to relocate their homes to ever impoverished and distant townships.
The final act is composed as a powerful contemporary opera, music by Peter Louis Van Dijk, on themes of revolution, incarceration and freedom.
The success of the show inspired the creative team to rewrite the opera; in 2011 ‘Mandela Trilogy toured to the Playhouse Theatre in Durban and the Monte Casino Theatre in Johannesburg. The opera had is European premier at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff in 2012, followed by performances at the Deutsches Theatre in Munich in 2014. In 2016, CTO made its Italian premier at the Ravenna Festival with ‘Mandela Trilogy’, followed by a 26-performance tour to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, Southbank Festival Hall in London, the Mayflower in Southampton, the Bord Gais Theatre in Dublin, the Birmingham Hippodrome, the Lowry Theatre in Manchester and in 2017 ‘Mandela Trilogy’ was performed at the Dubai Opera house and at the Hong Kong Cultural Grand Theatre.
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