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Wame Molefhe’s short story now an opera in Cape Town

LAURI KUBUITSILE
Wame Molefhe’s short story Blood of Mine, was staged as an opera at Artscape Theatre in Cape Town on November 25, 2015.

The opera is an adaptation of Molefhe’s short story of the same name.  The opera is part of a production that will run from November 25 to 28 called  Four: 30 Operas Made in South Africa.

The other three operas that appeared with Molefhe’s are: The Application, Bessie: the Blue-Eyed Xhosa, and Anti- Laius.

Each of the operas is 30 minutes long.

The director of Blood of Mine is Marcos Tebogo Desando.

 

The libretto (the person who wrote the words) is Janice Honeyman, and the music was composed by Sibusiso Njeza. 

On the Cape Town Opera website they say about the production: 

“Cape Town Opera, in collaboration with the UCT Opera School and funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, presents an evening composed of four new homegrown operas.”

It continues with: 

“We must constantly create new operas,” says conductor, Kamal Khan. “There are so many exciting new singers being discovered in South Africa, but what will they sing? They should be able to sing their own stories.”

CTO Artistic Director Matthew Wild, says,  “For most artists working in the field of opera, the majority of our time is spent reviving classics by long-dead composers.  So it’s a real thrill to bring a brand new work to life for the first time in collaboration with a composer and a librettist.  New works are a vital ingredient in keeping the art form of opera vital and relevant.”

It’s very exciting to see our local stories being made into operas, a type of music one does not normally associate with African short stories.

It is a way in which opera can be made more accessible to the normal person and also an exciting way for our stories to reach new audiences.

Blood of Mine is included in Molefhe’s acclaimed collection, Go Tell the Sun.

It is about a married woman desperate to have a child.  The assumption is that she is infertile.  In the end, she becomes pregnant by another man, not her husband. 

It is a sad look at the way infertility is often carried by the woman alone in Setswana culture even when she is not the cause of it and how women are defined by

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their fertility, a story likely to be familiar in many cultures.

In a telephone interview with the director, Desando, he told me the story interested him straight away and when he was given a choice of which of the four operas he would like to direct, he was immediately drawn to Blood of Mine. He said the story ‘grabbed him’.

Desando is a well-established South African opera director and has directed such notable operas as Rigoletto, La Boheme and Don Giovanni. 

He is also a singer and has appeared in over 70 productions in South Africa and overseas.

He said the opera is told primarily in English with dashes of Setswana here and there, reminding me that the main language spoke in Cape Town is Xhosa so they might find Setswana difficult.

And too, having the opera in English makes it more accessible to a wider audience if it is eventually performed in other places.

Desando was looking forward to meeting Molefhe when she arrives in Cape Town for the premiere.  He was keen to see what she and others will feel about his treatment of the story.  He suspects people will say, “I didn’t think of it that way”.

He explained that he decided to make the opera completely through the main character, Sethunya’s eyes.  Where Sethunya thinks someone is evil, the person appears as evil on the stage.

This is slightly different from the original story, which is primarily from Sethunya’s point of view, though not completely, some sections are from her husband’s point of view as well. 

“There is a beautiful sense of innocence in the piece, especially with Sethunya,” Desando said.

 

When I spoke to him it was before the premiere and I asked him how he thought the rehearsals were going and what he thought of the production.

He said, “It’s a lovely piece. I’m very excited about it”.

When asked if he might someday bring the opera to Botswana so that we might also see the performance, he said he would be delighted to if he was invited.

I wish that could happen. Crossing fingers arts festival folks are listening and will make my wish come true.



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