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Symposium and Workshop: South African Opera Productions after the Apartheid

Venue: Universität Bayreuth
Date: 18th- 19th October 2018

With the end of the Apartheid era, opera - stigmatized as ‘eurocentric opera’ - became a symbol of Western dominance/colonial imposition and seemed to be dead in South Africa.

But in fact, especially the so called ‘indigenous opera’ ‘flourishes’ as something of an anachronism and can be assessed as ‘black empowerment’ (Naomi André 2018).

The writing of a historiography of opera productions in South Africa although has academically just shortly started (Donato Somma 2016; Hilde Roos 2013, 2010; Martina Viljoen 2006) and is confronted with problems of different natures: political structures, post-colonization, globalization, unstable artistic standards and institutional relations. 

The ‘bloom’ of opera presents itself neither through regular performances nor through crowded theatre halls. This is a consequence of the difficult political relations of artistic production in South Africa, which are among others characterized by a lack of funding and the re-organization of the Performing Arts Councils/ National Arts Councils. The existing significant multiple theatricalities of South Africa are thereby not having a platform to present themselves. The market pressure results often in overseas productions financing the few performances in the country itself. Thereby putting itself on risk to confirm with their opera productions transferred expectations of a South African identity rather than expressing an ‘authentic’ one.  

This symposium will focus on South African Opera productions. Thereby the aim of the symposium is to represent the plurality of artistic concepts that deal in different ways with the multiple challenges of political and social transformation. How can opera in South Africa be involved in the process of societal transformation in a post-apartheid society? Which new artistic concepts are needed? How does themes for the libretti change? How did language, the style of composition and orchestration transform? Which new locations for performances are found to involve new audiences? How did the aesthetics change? And how are new media used either for a new aesthetic of performances, as with e.g. ‘Lamento’ (Umculo) or ‘U-Carmen eKhayelitsha’ (Isango Ensemble), or for marketing purposes?

For the first day of the symposium presentations shall focus on opera productions. To ‘map’ the plurality of the field presentations are invited that cover one of the following topics.

  •  South African opera productions
  • Operas of different opera companies and composers
  • Different locations of opera performances (opera house, township, film)
  • Aesthetics of the opera opus itself
  • Analysis of compositions, libretti & performances 
With Prof. Dr. Naomi André (University Michigan, USA), Dr. Donato Somma (University of Witwatersrand, SA) and Dr. Lena van der Hoven (among others) some experts in the field are invited. They will present on ‘Winnie - The Opera’ (Bongani Ndodana-Breen), ‘Princess Magogo’ (Opera Africa, Mzilikazi Khumalo), ‘Heart of Redness’ (Cape Town Opera, Neo Muyanga) and ‘Romeo’s Passion’ (Umculo, Cathy Milliken).

The workshop on the second day will cover transformation processes of Opera production in South Africa focusing on the following topics:

  • Opera institutions & opera companies  
  • Finances/ Funding
  • Audiences
  • Marketing
  • Political impact
  • Aesthetics.
Programme Symposium and Workshop: South African Opera Productions after the Apartheid Einklappen


Thursday, 18th October

10.00 - 10.05 am Welcome: Dr Lena van der Hoven (Junges Kolleg of Bavarian Academy of Sciences/ University of Bayreuth)

10.05 - 11.15 am Chair: Dr Lena van der Hoven

Prof Naomi André (University Michigan, USA): Engaging Opera with New Narratives, Winnie: The Opera
Dr Donato Somma (University of Witwatersrand, SA): Walking on Thorns: The Operatic Princess Magogo

11.15 – 11.30 am coffee break
11.30 – 12.45 Chair: Dr Donato Somma

William Fourie (University of Royal Holloway, University of London, UK): Memory Rituals: On Modernism and Neo Muyanga’s Heart of Redness

Dr Lena van der Hoven (Junges Kolleg of Bavarian Academy of Sciences/ University of Bayreuth): “In or Out?”: Creating a South African Narrative through creative collaborative work in Umculo’s Romeo’s Passion

12.45 - 2.15 pm lunch break 
2.15 – 3.25 pm Chair: William Fourie

Dr Juliana M. Pistorius (University of Huddersfield, UK): The Total Work of War: William Kentridge’s The Head and the Load as Post-Operatic Gesamtkunstwerk

Angelique Mouyis (Rutgers University, USA): Isango Ensemble’s Unogumbe – An Adaptation of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde

3.25 - 3.50 pm coffee break
3.50 – 5.00 pm Chair: Shirley Apthorp

Wayne Muller (Stellenbosch University, South Africa): Towards contemporary relevance and political significance: The reception of Beethoven's Fidelio in Cape Town

Lebona R. Sello (North West University, South Africa): Exploring Nelson Mandela’s masculinity through the lens of Mandela trilogy the opera

7.00 pm
Prof Naomi André (University Michigan, USA): Black Opera and Working Catfish Role: Engaging Black Experience in Opera

Friday, 19th October 2018

10 – 11.45 am Chair: Dr Lena van der Hoven

Melissa Gerber (Odeion School of Music, South Africa): “We have our own stories to tell”: Questioning hybridity and identity in post-apartheid South African opera

Allison R. Smith (Boston University, USA): Difference for the Sake of Difference: The Marketization of Black Voices in Post-Apartheid South African Opera

Megan Quilliam (University of Colorado, USA): #SaveGautengOpera: Strategies for the Preservation of South African Opera

11.45 – 12.00 am coffee break
12.00 – 1.00 pm Workshop I. with input-presentations
12.00 – 12.30 pm Input Naomi André: Subjects, and Structures: South African Opera post-apartheid in the millennium
12.30 – 1.00 pm Input July Zuma (Opera Singer): An Observation of a Situation for South African: Opera Singers in and outside South Africa

1.00 – 2.30 pm lunch break
2.30 – 4.30 pm Workshop II. with input-presentations
2.30 – 3.00 pm Input Shirley Apthorp (Founder & Director  of Umculo): Opera as Necessity – For Whom Do We Sing, and How?

3.00 – 3.30 pm Financial situation and political influence?
3.30 – 3.45 pm coffee break
3.45 – 4.30 pm open discussion
4.30 – 4.4 5pm coffee break
4.45 – 5.00 Dr Donato Somma & Dr Lena van der Hoven: Final statement
7.00 pm Screening: A documentary portrait of a radical re-make of Verdi’s opera Macbeth.

Verantwortlich für die Redaktion: Dr. Lena van der Hoven

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