The impresario at the Artscape Arena: an interview

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Picture supplied: costume design by Allegra Bernacchioni

Cape Town Opera presents Opera Shorts: A Festival of Pocket Operas, a delightful selection of short operas: Poulenc’s La voix humaine (The human voice), Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor (The impresario) and the global premiere of Asman’s Trial by media, a new South African opera. 


Elisabeth Manduell talks to Naomi Meyer about the short opera, The impresario, playing at the Artscape Arena this coming weekend.

Elisabeth, you are the director of Mozart’s The impresario at the Artscape Arena this weekend. Please tell our readers a bit about yourself.

I graduated from the UCT Opera School in 2018, but in my time there I had the opportunity to be the assistant director in the collaborations with Cape Town Opera. From there, I got a permanent position at Cape Town Opera and became the in-house assistant director. A few years in, I realised that I wanted to be a director and decided to start following that route. Matthew Wild gave me my first opera to direct with the 2021 Pearl fishers, which he had come up with the concept for. From there, Cape Town Opera and Magdalene Minnaar have given me many more opportunities to direct with Opera Blocks, e-learning series and now The impresario.

Let us discuss the opera short production, Mozart’s Impresario. It is not one of his most well-known compositions; if you had to summarise the story, what would you say?

It’s a fun piece about an opera company trying to put on a season with zero budget. An investor arrives and promises some money to the company – with some conditions, of course. Two sopranos competing for the lead roles cause some havoc, which causes the impresario to resign. Will the opera company be able to plan a season in the end?

Opera singers and many people involved in the arts can be quite full of themselves, and this production is making fun of this perception (reality?). But I read that the show is more than a comedy; the music and singing are of a high quality, as well. If people buy tickets for this show, what can they look forward to: which singers, and will live instruments be playing?

We are very lucky not to be short of operatic talent in Cape Town, and audiences can expect high quality performances from Judith Neilson, Upung Artists, Lonwabo Mose, Mongezi Mosoaka and Dineo Bokala, as well as recent graduate Alida Scheepers. They can also expect to see fantastic acting from all of them and from our lead, Dean de Klerk, who was recently in The sound of music. Robin Phillips at the piano brings Mozart’s beautiful music to life. This hilarious piece will have you laughing throughout and offers some wonderful light-hearted moments we can all relate to in some way.

The opera is a so-called short or pocket opera. Did you have to cut the original opera in length, or how did you go about arranging this so that it could fit the hour slot? How did you arrange the opera for the Arena theatre – and for a South African audience?

The original piece is only 50 minutes in total, created by Mozart with the idea of a short, bite-sized opera in mind. For the Arena, we have replaced the orchestra with a piano reduction, which is still a musical treat.

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In order to attract a new audience, we’ve set it in a contemporary Cape Town setting, with each character drawing on a clique that you find in our wonderful city. A film student, a blesser and an Atlantic Seaboard brunch enthusiast are just some examples of what you might find.
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In order to attract a new audience, we’ve set it in a contemporary Cape Town setting, with each character drawing on a clique that you find in our wonderful city. A film student, a blesser and an Atlantic Seaboard brunch enthusiast are just some examples of what you might find.

Is opera important in this country – or anywhere? Why, or why not? In a country like South Africa with all its challenges and diversity, does opera matter?

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Opera is always important, no matter where you find yourself. It is a storytelling medium that makes use of so many other aspects – such as music, dance, design, acting, etc – that it really is the perfect example of what happens when all of these genres combine. The stories we tell through opera are not specific to any class or culture and can really be for anyone, even if they were written hundreds of years ago, as we see with The impresario.
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Opera is always important, no matter where you find yourself. It is a storytelling medium that makes use of so many other aspects – such as music, dance, design, acting, etc – that it really is the perfect example of what happens when all of these genres combine. The stories we tell through opera are not specific to any class or culture and can really be for anyone, even if they were written hundreds of years ago, as we see with The impresario. South Africa has such a rich choral and musical storytelling culture that opera really does have its place here, and it has the power to bring people from different backgrounds together through these aspects that link us.

Also read:

Shorts: A festival of pocket operas – an interview with Conrad Asman, composer of Trial by media

Die Stellenbosch Internasionale Klaviersimposium en die Hennie Joubert Nasionale Klavierkompetisie: ’n onderhoud met Pieter Grobler

Persverklaring: Suidoosterfees 21 – hutspot van eg Kaapse musiek en stories

Sting se woorde en musiek, aangebied deur John Ellis en James Stewart: 'n resensie

From violence to violins: ’n onderhoud met Maria Botha van Muzukidz

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Kommentaar

  • Coert Mommsen

    Dankie Naomi en al die skeppers en rolspelers. Ek's veral bly om te sien opera is steeds lewendig en gesond. Hou dit tog so, al moet julle Andre Rieux se resep gebruik. Dalk is dit 'n oplossing en kan dit die genre se lewensvatbaarheid verhoog.

  • Reageer

    Jou e-posadres sal nie gepubliseer word nie. Kommentaar is onderhewig aan moderering.


     

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