R10 million funding, four years of planning and six weeks of intense rehearsal will see fruition as Winnie The Opera takes to the stage at the Pretoria State Theatre for five performances only on April 28. Producer Mfundi Vundla tells us about casting, his on-stage moving moments and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s reaction to the production. Read more about the production by clicking on this link.
I saw this at the State Theatre, and it was moving and thought-provoking AND the first two commentators obviously didn’t bother themselves to see it before passing judgement. Otherwise, they would know that this opera doesn’t let Ms. Mandela off the hook. Its main premise is to call her and others on the white government side to account for allowing any form of inhumanity to happen during the struggle against apartheid. It actually depicts the death of Stompie at the hands of Winnie’s bodyguard. Just know what you are talking about before you go off on your own personal agenda. This piece of theatre was the most exciting and inspiring thing I have seen on stage in years! The entire audience rose in a standing ovation-black and white together! Thrilling !!!
I am shocked that there are people who would have comments such as “waste of time” in response to one of the most important cultural productions in this country. Whether one liked or connected with the work is not of paramount importance. What I think we also need to take into consideration is what it also symbolises culturally. Im not gonna give a phd thesis about the our history, including of that of the arts, we are all familiar with that. But perhaps I should remind my fellow South Africans that arts education, including the study of music, was reserved for whites. Hence the lack of black composers, and arrangers today. Our forfathers’s musical knowldge was limited to the tonic solfa notation system,which they used to write choral music. Things like the Opera, or symphonic music for that matter, were a foreign concept for blacks. Those who had the opportunity to engage in these musics faced the consequence of the apartheid system. Now, for the first time, Winnie herself came to the State theatre, for the very first time!!!! She said in her speech, this is one of the buildings they wanted to bomb back in the day precidely because it was only reserved for whites. For the first time in my life, I saw the state theatre filled with more black faces and white faces, to watch an opera!!! I think we can all agree that before Winnie, you would not find a lot of balck people watching opera, let alone government officials. Winnie the Opera symbolises a change, a transformation, growth, and progress. Firstly, as an opera composed by a black person, that symbolises the small but definite progress within the area of music education. As someone pointed out, other black operas such as UShaka and Princess Magogo were written by black composers but orchastrated by white composers. Winnie is the first opera with a score completely done by a black composer, which is an achievement, and this achievment should be celebrated by all South Africans regardless of race because now we can proudly say, we can also produce competetive, brilliant composers who can stand next to some of the greatest composers in the world. Though this means a lot for black people, it should not be about colour though, it should be about a the fact that the work is South African and it may not be placed next to Don Giovanni or La Traviata, but it is a cultural milestone for us as a nation. .
Let me also point out to the opportunity and the exposure it has given to young black opera singers. I don’t have to tell you that this is a growing area within the arts, and these youngsters were provided with an opportunity of a lifetime.