With Poppy Savage and Alan Boyd he drove down from Kenya, where they were exploring at various stops along the way there and in Tanzania and Zambia, the opportunity to involve local singers in music and story telling, or Opera for Change.The final performance to a packed audience at the No 1 Ladies' Opera House featured the piano of Verity Knight and the opera singing of Andy Staples, the Sedibeng Choir and three of Botswana's great opera singers: soprano Tshenolo Batshogile, baritone Gape Motswaledi and tenor, Boyce Batlang.
They performed a range of 14 operatic and other items, including Tamino's aria by Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791) from the Magic Flute, An die Musik by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) sung by Andy Staples; and Tshenolo Batshogile sang Alfredo Catalani's (1854-1893) Farewell by La Wally.The Sedibeng Choir performed their already famous Dumela followed by The Lion Awakes or Wimaweh. Later they sang the final chorus from the Magic Flute and with Andy and Tshenolo a selection from Guiseppe Verdi's (1813-1901) La Traviata. Boyce also sang from Verdi's Aida, and the closing piece was from La Traviata with Andy and Tshenolo joining the Sedibeng choir. The Sedibeng Choir also repeated the great song that goes way back to anti-apartheid days and was first recorded by Solomon Linda (1939) as the group's encore, Mbube or The Lion Sleeps Tonight, but it is now known as Wimeweh.
The No 1 Ladies' Opera House has served as a quiet venue for people to have light lunches under the trees in the garden and enjoy the peace, quiet and birds. Regular craft markets were held there, but only on mornings until early afternoon. The restaurant was normally not open in the evenings. (Mimi Shand has also bought out the business (a formal company) known as The No 1 Ladies' Opera House, including Precious Ramotswe's small van, and all the contents (kitchen equipment, theatre bleachers, etc. of the site at Kgale Siding), but not the land. The land owner is not renewing the lease, and this has forced Mimi to look for a new space to relocate the No.1 Ladies Opera House.
The No 1 Ladies' Opera House made a unique contribution to the social and cultural scene in Botswana. It will be missed and many will look forward to its being re-opened. There are numerous fine singers and dramatists who have provided rapt audiences with fine entertainment there, from Aldo Brincat to the Sedibeng Choir. A quick search through Mmegi's web pages will reveal reviews of dozens of events held there over the last five years. It was a full moon night and the guests enjoyed dinner under its light before the operatic arias began and then dessert at intermission. Unfortunately Hilary Wylie, who sponsored the event, was unable to be present (her passport had expired)