Mandla Mlangeni – Oratorio Of A Forgotten Youth at Artscape Cape Town

Last week I attended an Artscape performance that was unexpected. The musical “Reflection of A Forgotten Youth” focusing on South African youth in 1976 was nothing like I imagined.

Mandla Mlangeni Trumpeter – news.uct.ac.za

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“April 16, 2019 is the 43rd anniversary of the “historic June 16, 1976 uprisings that changed the course of South African history.”

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Mandla Mbothwe Writer, Director, Teacher, Curator, Artist, Lecturer – UCT

South Africa Youth Day

June 16, 1976 “marked the beginning of the Soweto Uprising, a series of protests that escalated quickly around the country, especially in Cape Town”. South Africa celebrates Youth Day every 16 June. It’s a day the country “reflects on the massacre of school children during the Soweto Uprising of 1976“.

Artscape Creative Director Mandla Mbothwe inspired the production “invoking the spirit of forgotten youth”. Trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni performs with the Gugulethu Voices Choir, Cape Town Philharmonic, Amandla Freedom Ensemble, and poet Koleka Putuma. Mlangeni is Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz 2019 and the Center for Humanities Research (CHR) Artist in Residence.

Afrika Mkhize Pianist, Music Producer, Arranger, Composer, Artist – artSMart

Jazz, Classical, and Indigenous Music

The musical performance combined jazz, classical, and indigenous music performed by a cast of accomplished artists including Ariel Zamonsky, Afrika Mkhize, Lesego Rampolokeng, Mark Fransman, Thembi Mtshali-Jones, and more.

Lesego Rampoloken Writer, Playwright, Poet – Wikipedia

Amandla Freedom Ensemble with Mandla Mbothwe and Cape Town Philharmonic – amandlafreedom.com

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“Oratorio Of A Forgotten Youth harnesses choral traditions that define struggles against apartheid with contemporary musical forms.” 

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Cape Town Philharmonic CEO Louis Heyneman – YouTube

According to Cape Town Philharmonic CEO Louis Heyneman, the collaboration “debunks the myth that classically trained musicians are stuck in a formal mold and not adaptable to other genres”. He adds, “We are an orchestra for all seasons, and bringing seemingly opposing musical forms together is part of who we are”.

It was a memorable evening and a fitting, heartfelt remembrance.

Gugulethu Voices Choir – News24

I Capuleti E I Montecchi at Artscape Theatre Cape Town

Artscape Theatre – Mail and Guardian

Artscape Theatre is a favorite venue in Cape Town and last night I attended a performance of I Capuleti e i Montecchi – The Capulets and Montagues. In this creative production, Cape Town Opera (CTO) collaborates with the University of Cape Town (UCT) Opera School to present Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini’s work. It’s based on Shakespeare’s classic play and Luigi Scevola’s tragedy Giulietta e Romeo.

I Capuleti E I Montecchi – Tirana Times

Vincenzo Bellini wrote I Capuleti E I Montecchi for the 1830 Carnival Season at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. It was an enormous success and later appeared at King’s Theater in London, the Paris Opera, and on the Swedish stage.

Jeremy Silver Director UCT Opera School – iono.fm

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I Capuleti has “endlessly long, melancholy vocal lines. In the first act finale Romeo and Juliet sing a long unison melody with only brief pauses for breath.”

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Steven Stead Director – Kickstart Theatre

Marvin Kernelle Chorus Master CTO – Cape Town Opera

Bellini cast the star-crossed lovers as a soprano and mezzo-soprano featuring his “trademark sensuous duets”. The libretto by Felice Romani is a “reworking of Romeo and Juliet” with a simplified story line. The five soloists are Romeo, Juliet, Juliet’s father Capelio, Lorenzo a physician, and Juliet’s betrothed Tebaldo. As the opera opens, Romeo and Juliet have already met and fallen in love.

Artscape Theatre – town.co.za

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“With his melancholy melodies, Bellini aims straight for our hearts, giving us not a moment’s doubt of the young lovers’ feelings for one another.”

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Vincenzo Bellini Composer – Primephonic

The opera features a “youthful cast from UCT Opera School and CTO’s Young Artist Programme“. Jeremy Silver, Director of the UCT Opera School, conducts the UCT Symphony Orchestra. Steven Stead directs the performance and Marvin Kernelle is CTO Chorus Master. Michael Mitchell designed the set and costumes, while stage lighting is by Kobus Rossouw.

Cape Town Opera Chorus

Cape Town Opera Youth Development and Education (YDE) Department

The story of Romeo and Juliet inspired hundreds of operas. Shakespeare used life in the Renaissance Period to develop the plot for his play. Bellini’s opera applies “bel canto elegiac styleis” to emphasize the “poignancy of the love story”.

Kobus Rossouw Lighting Design – kobusrossouw.net

I Capuleti e i Montecchi – OVS Arts of Italy

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“Bellini’s opera spins out extended threads of wistful, longing song in passages that are among the best of the bel canto elegiac style.”

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Cast

UCT Symphony Orchestra – Baxter Theatre Centre

Michael Mitchell Set and Costume Designer – Getty Images

The highly emotional two-act performance – with more than one person shedding a tear – was a total delight, BIG smile!

West Side Story Artscape Theatre

In March after popular demand, producer and human rights activist Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre’s production of West Side Story returned to Artscape. The American musical has been performed in Cape Town before and audiences raved about the brilliant actors, singers, dancers, music, and sets!

Jerome Robbins – Choreographer

Grant van Stern – Choreographer

Artscape Theatre

Artscape is one of my favorite performing arts venues in Cape Town. The theatre opened in 1971 as the Nico Malan Theatre Centre. It was renamed in 2001 and now belongs to the Western Cape Government.

Officer Krupke and Detective Schrank

The spectacular opera house has an exciting ambiance, including gardens, rehearsal rooms, and a stylish foyer. Over the years, I’ve joined friends there for memorable opera, ballet, musical, and comedy performances! Last night’s brilliant performance didn’t disappoint!

Eric Abraham – Film, Television, Theatre Producer

Stephen Sondheim – Songwriter

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“West Side Story is a musical about cultural differences, racism, forbidden love, revenge, and death.”

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Arthur Laurents – Screenwriter

Plot

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story’s timeless plot is set on the “harsh streets of New York City’s Upper West Side in the 1950s”.

Rival street gangs, the Puerto Rican Sharks and Caucasian Jets, battle in a turf-war to gain control of the neighborhood. Tensions rise when Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, leader of the rival Sharks.

Production

American choreographer Jerome Robbins conceived the story in 1957, and playwright and screenwriter Arthur Laurents wrote the West Side Story book. Renowned composer Leonard Bernstein created the musical score with lyrics written by acclaimed songwriter Stephen Sondheim.

Michael Brenner – Producer

The 1961 film version of West Side Story “won 11 Academy Awards, including best picture, best supporting actor and actress, best director, and best cinematographer”. The film also won a Grammy for best soundtrack. It’s undoubtedly one of the best musicals ever written.

Louisa Talbot – Choreographer

South Africa’s Matthew Wild directs the Artscape production. Charl Johan Lingenfelder is musical director and conductor of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. Louisa Talbot choreographed the production with Grant van Ster as resident choreographer and dance captain.

Charl Johan Lingenfelder – Musical Director and Conductor

In 2018, West Side Story is once again “sweeping Capetonians off their feet”! How could it not with the fabulous Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra performing in the pit and an outstanding cast of forty exceptional performers?

Cast of Characters

Lynelle Kenned plays the role of Maria, a hopeless romantic who falls in love with Tony and finds herself at the center of a violent conflict between the Jets and Sharks. Kenned won the Fleur du Cap Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance. Among her many talents Kenned is an opera singer with a marvelous soprano voice!

The main character Tony – former Jets leader – is torn between gang friends and his love for Maria. The part is played by talented US actor Kevin Hack who has performed the role almost 400 times. Hack recently completed an international tour playing in the 60th anniversary international tour of German producer Michael Brenner’s production of West Side Story.

Matthew Wild – Director

Singer, pianist, violinist, dancer, and actress Bianca Le Grange plays Anita, Maria’s friend and Bernardo’s girlfriend. Daniel Mpilo Richards plays Bernardo, proud leader or the Sharks.

Leonard Bernstein – Composer and Conductor

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“The choreography exudes vibrant waves of emotion from act to act leaving its audience’s heart thumping!”

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Artscape Foyer

Artscape Theatre Centre Cape Town

Artscape Foyer Upper Level Lounge

Sculptures Artscape Entrance

The actors are multi-talented with impressive accomplishments and careers. The beautiful, strong dancers were magnificent!!! Main characters include:

  1. Lynelle Kenned – Maria, Bernardo’s sister in love with Tony
  2. Kevin Hack – Tony, former Jets leader in love with Maria
  3. Bianca Le Grange – Anita, Jet, Bernardo’s girlfriend, Maria’s friend
  4. Daniel Mpilo Richards – Bernardo, Shark leader, Maria’s brother, Anita’s boyfriend
  5. Stephen Jubber – Riff, quick-­tempered Jets leader
  6. Sven-Eric Muller – Diesel, Jets second-in-­command
  7. Craig Urbani – Schrank, police detective
  8. Richard Lothian – Officer Krupke, beat cop
  9. James Borthwick – Doc, owner of the store where the Jets hang out
  10. Clint Lesch – Chino, Jet, Maria’s suitor, and friend of Bernardo
  11. Logan Timbre – Action, quick-­‐tempered member of the Jets

West Side Story Artscape Willem Law Photographer

It was an interesting, eclectic crowd attending the performance – an evening of entertainment by extraordinarily talented young artists! Many more than mentioned here helped with production of the musical.

Cape Town International Jazz Festival

Next weekend Artscape hosts the 19th Cape Town International Jazz Festival. The exciting lineup includes Alistair Izobell, Amanda Black, GrazRoots Project, Blinky Bill, Claire Phillips, Miles Mosley, Nduduzo Makhathini, Mabuta, Louis Moholo, and more outstanding artists!

The Sleeping Beauty Ballet at Artscape

Artscape Opera House

Artscape Opera House

Cape Town City Ballet (CTCB) is performing  Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty ballet at Artscape Opera House. The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Brandon Phillips accompanied the dancers. I attended the premier performance on September 2. It was an excellent, exciting production!

Brandon Phillips Conductor

Brandon Phillips Conductor

CTBC is South Africa’s oldest ballet company. The premier performance of Sleeping Beauty featured impressive guest artists Hikaru Kobayashi from The Royal Ballet as Princess Aurora and David Moore from Stuttgart Ballet as Prince Florimund. Outstanding performances by Johnny Bovang as the evil fairy godmother Carabosse and Kim Vieira as the Lilac Fairy were captivating.

Johnny Bovang as Carabosse

Johnny Bovang as Carabosse

“About ten years after the presentation of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, he was asked to write a ballet for the famous Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. The ballet would be based on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood. Tchaikovsky was very happy this story was chosen. It was set in the age of Louis XIV. He would have the chance to write music in the Baroque style.”

The dancing, dramatic musical score, costumes, and beautiful sets were exquisite – a memorable Cape Town evening!

Pytor I Tschaikowski

Pytor I Tchaikovsky