Nelson Mandela’s great nephew and chief executive of Opera South Africa, Unathi Mtirara, believes there were many aspects of his “grandfather’s” life that were being left out, so he put together stories that were personal and not well known.
Rejecting the label of “saint” that appeared to be synonymous with Mandela, Mtirara conveys him as a man who wasn’t perfect but who was still a source of moral inspiration.
In Madiba, the African Opera, he is humanised. The audience gets to see the man behind the saintly façade, the man who stole mealies and cows; who, as Mandela himself pointed out, had an upbringing not dissimilar to thousands of youth in the rural areas.
Sibusiso Njeza composed the music for the opera and the orchestrator is Kutlwano Masote, both of whose outlooks resonated with Mtirara’s ideals and the way in which he wanted to portray the life of Mandela.
“It was very important to find the right people to work on this opera.
People who have a deep understanding of traditional music were imperative to staying true to the story, as were people who would follow the script down to the last full stop. It was important that the true story of Madiba was conveyed, because this was the main reason for the opera’s existence,” said Mtirara
Baritone Thabang Senekal, who made a name for himself as a member of the Black Tie Ensemble, plays the role of Nelson Mandela. Popular soprano Sibongile Mngoma takes on the role of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, while opera star Zandile Gwebityala-Mzaz portrays Madikizela-Mandela’s daughter Zindzi Mandela.
Mezzo-soprano Nonhlanhla Yende plays Nelson Mandela’s mother, Noqaphi Nosekeni, and Capetonian Bongiwe Nakani portrays his first wife Evelyn Mase. Rising star, bass-baritone Kabelo Lebyana, appears as King Jongintaba and tenor Sipho Fubesi plays Justice Mtirara.
Madiba, the African Opera runs at the State Theatre until June 1, after which it will be staged at the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu on July 18, followed by performances at the Port Elizabeth Opera House and at the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State in Bloemfontein. The production embarks on a tour of illustrious venues across Europe next year.
WHERE State Theatre, Pretoria
WHEN Friday May 23 – June 1 2014
INFO Tickets cost between R110 and R280 and are available from Computicket