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Cape Festival: Exploring South Africa's Opera Tradition

img  Tobias

There is still a long way to go. During the Apartheid-years, Classical Music was the exclusive domain of the ruling elite in South Africa. After the political changes brought about in the mid-90s, meanwhile, the money pumped into choirs and orchestras was quickly withdrawn and redirected to different causes. In effect, the scene has been sadly neglected for a full decade or more and is currently in a dire state: Concert attendances are low because there are problems with organising safe public transport after a performance. A lack of formal training is preventing even the most dedicated South African conductors from attaining the proficiency required for an international career. And both visitors and performers at concert halls have mainly remained white and do not reflect the impressive social turnabout of the country. This may now be about to change. As Breen put it: „Music is an incredibly powerful tool for social change.“

The educational branch of the Cape Festival has been modeled on Venezuela's renowned FESNOJIV program and will be actively supported by Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, among others. Still, with regards to the abovementioned specific issues facing South Africa's Classical Music community, the organising team under the batton of Shirley Apthorp has set up its own agenda. As a first step, South African music educators and international experts will get together to pinpoint specific problems and establish concrete goals. The innitiative will be complemented by a plan called „Pianists for Africa“, set to improve the standard of Vocal Voaches and Pianists as a foundation for future generations of talents to build on.

The four operas to be performed at the first edition of the Cape Festival are     Benjamin Britten's „Noyes Fludde“, Henry Purcell's „King Arthur“, Philippe Boesmans' „“Reigen“ as well as „Der Fliegende Holländer“ by Richard Wagner. The international aspect is essential in all productions: „Noyes Fludde“, for example, will feature a collaboration between South Africa's „Hout Bay Music Project“ and Austria's „St. Pölten Theater“, while Conductor Morten Schuldt-Jensen will direct the Leipzig Immortal Bach Ensemble for „King Arthur“. Most exciting, probably, is the staging of Chamber Opera „Reigen“ by Belgian Composer Philippe Boesmans. The work's turn-of-the-century bitterness has been adapted to a South African context and will feature passages in Xhosa, Afrikaans, and English. This, too, is a perfect reflection of an unsuspected reality: „South Africa has an amazing choral tradition“, Bongani Ndodana Breen says, „There are choirs in every community.“ If the Cape Festival succeeds, their stage will soon be the world.

Homepage: Cape Festival

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