Most of you know that I am
fairly – very – passionate about my home country, South Africa.
So it will come as little surprise that I jumped at the opportunity to see the South African “Isango Ensemble” perform “Die Zauberfloete” (The Magic Flute, or Impempe Yomlingo ) at the Tollwood Winter festival.
I am not a huge opera fan, but this piece is by the same group that made one of my favourite movies – “uCarmen eKhayelitsha” (Carmen, set in the Cape Town township Khayelitsha).
And we were not disappointed. I laughed out loud, I sat mesmerised, I had goose bumps, I smiled a lot and I got a tad homesick. And I felt tremendously proud.
This version of The Magic Flute is not performed with any traditional, classical instruments – in fact the flute itself is a trumpet. And the bulk of the music is on Marimbas.
And what impressed me most, is that apart from the handful of main characters, the rest of the corps, the cast, were all versatile enough to spend some time singing and acting on the stage, and other times playing the marimbas. And the music never stopped, despite being performed by different people at the same instrument all the time. Can you even imagine a violinist at a “traditional” Munich performance leaving her instrument and getting up on stage to sing a piece, and then head back??
It was performed mostly in English (with a smattering of Xhosa) – so i understood most of it. But i did find that the acoustics could have been better. Some of these beautifully rich voices got lost in the large tent they performed in.
All in all, though, this was well worth seeing. I love classical opera or traditional Shakespeare for example, that is re-worked into a modern or slightly different setting. And us South Africans are darned good at that.