Friday, March 02, 2007

macbEth: the opera in South Africa

Theatre innovator Brett Bailey stages his extraordinary theatrical interpretation of Verdi’s opera ‘Macbeth’ in the amphitheatre at the Spier Summer Arts Season. Verdi based his work on Shakespeare’s dark drama of power, treachery, guilt and witchcraft. Bailey and composer Peter Louis van Dijk have cut about 45 minutes off the original to make a fast-paced, streamlined 90 minute piece rich in visual imagery.

Bailey has located the drama in a contemporary Central African state and says “Shakespeare’s play, located in a tribal society characterised by violent coups d’etat, tenacious political leaders, rebel insurgencies and a belief system rich in soothsayers and lends itself superbly to an African setting.”

An earlier version of this work played to sold out houses and critical acclaim in Cape Town (2001) and Pretoria (2002). Bailey says that his understanding of opera, of directing and of the post-colonial landscape of Africa have come along way since then and promises a much deeper and clearer theatrical and musical experience.

Conducted by Chris Dowdeswell, “macbEth: the opera” stars world-renowned baritone Fikile Mvinjelwa in the title role, and Nobulumko Mngxekeza as Lady Macbeth. The multi-media production also features dancers, actors and the Cape Town Opera Vocal Ensemble.

Presenters from London’s Barbican Theatre and from opera houses and festivals in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland and France will be attending the opening night with an eye to buying the production.

“macbEth: the opera” is a collaboration between Bailey’s company – Third World Bunfight – and Cape Town Opera. Third World has been the resident performance company at Spier since 2004, where it has presented works such as Big Dada, Medeia and Orfeus. Several of the company’s pieces have toured abroad.

Cape Town Opera, the “Voice of the Nation”, have had huge successes locally and abroad with operas such as Porgy and Bess and The Magic Flute.

No opera would have the same impact without a live orchestra and the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra adds another dimension to this extraordinary representation of macbEth.

“macbEth: the opera” plays at the Spier amphitheatre between 15 -17 March and 21- 23 March at 20h00. For further information visit Spier’s website,, or call Computicket or the booking office at Spier on 021 809 1111.

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