Cantiamo – Mzansi Opera Celebration which recently graced the Mandela Stage at the sprawling Joburg Theatre complex was an operatic musical extravaganza! The expertly curated production was enjoyed by a hugely appreciative and socially-distanced audience who from their reactions wanted more even when the curtain had come down.
Given how Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the world with some experts arguing that the creative industries (which includes theatre and opera) have been hardest hit, opera enthusiasts came out in numbers to quench their thirst for live opera music. Dressed to the nines (including the mandatory face masks) as is the norm for such evenings, the patrons observed the now-familiar yet strictly enforced Covid-19 regulations to be serenated by the world class voices of the principal singers.
Opera which is sometimes confused with musicals is defined as a form of theatre where music drives the action (rather than dialogue in theatre) and oftentimes features the principal singers ‘playing’ different characters in various scenes typically of love, loss, grief and many other oft depicted vagaries of human existence.
The history of black opera and to some degree musicals in South Africa is never complete without mentioning what has been called the first ‘African Jazz Opera’, King Kong performed in 1959 and featuring an all-black cast. This success of this production both locally and abroad no doubt laid foundations for the development of African operatic forms which today are showcased by world renowned voices such as Pretty Yende.
Cantiamo – Mzansi OperaCelebration was conceived and directed by Marcus Desando and in his opening remarks described the production as a “celebration of South African opera compositions” some of which include Phelelani Mnomiya’s Ziyankomo and the Forbidden Fruit and Mzilikazi Khumalo’s Princess Magogo.
A highlight for the night was the performance by the hugely talented Vivacious Sounds Choir who with their well-choreographed dances and mesmerising voices wowed the audience who no doubt went home buzzing having experienced such a night of soulful operatic sounds. Music is the cure after all!
Cantiamo – Mzansi Opera Celebration directed by Marcus Desando and featuring Kimmy Skota, Nhlanhla Yende Mtirara, Thesele Kemane and Phenye Modiane with Paul Ferreira on piano and supported by the Vivacious Sounds Choir took place on 22 and 23 October at the Joburg Theatre and was also available for streaming on 24 and 25 October 2020.
Tonderai Chiyindiko is a part-time arts writer and contributor. He holds a B.A honours degree in drama from the University of Zimbabwe and a Masters degree in Applied Drama from University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. He has been part and parcel of the theatre-verse both as an actor and director and more generally worked extensively within the cultural and creative industries sector in various capacities.