The Magic Flute: Impempe Yomlingo, Duke of York's Theatre, London
Mozart magic meets African brilliance
Monday 04 February 2008
This updating of The Magic Flute to South Africa offers such a miraculous glimpse into a possible musical future that it's hard to watch without a lump in the throat. It speaks directly out of the townships, yet it's entirely true to Mozart.
The performers draw the harmonies of the overture from a battery of unamplified marimbas, and they dance and sing their way through the story. Tamino's Masonic induction becomes a Xhosa boy's initiation rite; the musical mode shifts almost seamlessly to and fro between Vienna and Cape Town, as does the timbre of the singing.
One of the most astonishing things that director Mark Dornford-May reveals is that neither Mhlekazi Andy Mosiea, who deploys a beautiful sound as Tamino, nor anyone else in the cast has had formal Western-style conservatoire training. "All his training has been through choir networks. But if you sing in these from the age of seven or eight, and do established Western repertoire as well as traditional South African music, by the time you get to your early twenties your vocal development can be seriously good."
He's surprised and relieved at the show's success, after its 18-month gestation (it is transferring from the Young Vic): "We had no idea how people would react – we were, after all, playing about with one of the greatest pieces of music theatre ever written. But after our Carmen I felt we could go on a step, and replace the orchestra with an African sound, and this seemed the perfect piece with which to try it. It's all to do with reconciliation, which for South Africans one doesn't have to explain."
A film is on the cards, and the transfer will mercifully stay acoustic. "Though most of our audience may not realise this, the fact that it's natural unamplified sound communicates a sense of truth and immediacy, and that's what people react to. We've already taken a marimba and a couple of singers into the new theatre, and it sounds perfect."
By Michael Church
9 February to 12 April (0870 060 6623)
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 3 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 4 Penis size: Study revealing 'what's normal' sends international media into meltdown
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
The Great Comic Relief Bake Off, review: Alexa Chung's secret skills impress but Chris Moyles makes Paul Hollywood gag
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Seth Rogan's pot fumes delay hacked Sony boss’s office move
India's Daughter: BBC Four documentary provokes outrage on Twitter
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin