On Stage: Giving voice to our story

21 August 2015 - 02:16 By Eugene Yiga

Following the critical acclaim of his operetta The Flower of Shembe , Neo Muyanga has adapted Heart of Redness, the novel by South African writer Zakes Mda. "The story is beautifully told by Mda," says the Soweto-born composer and librettist."Director Mark Fleishman convinced me we should tell the story in musical form. I wasn't convinced at first but grew into it. It tells our story: the story of the making of black modernity.""The themes and characters move through time, from the 19th century to the present day," he says."One of the main themes is the legacy of Xhosa prophetess Nongqawuse. If you read it in a particular way it tells you that was the beginning of the end of the black struggle."Muyanga explains that the production is both a musical and an opera. The genres jostle and must share the space."I hope we've created something that will engage and intrigue everyone," he says. "That history is of great interest to South Africans, Africans and the entire diaspora."In the mid-1990s, Muyanga co-founded the acoustic pop duo BLK Sonshine with Masauko Chipembere. He also studied the Italian madrigal tradition with choral maestro Piero Poclen in Italy."It impacted very much," he says. "From singing in choirs in Soweto and in Botswana, it was quite a long way to singing Palestrina and Gesualdo madrigals in Italy."Travel helped me learn in an open-minded way, and led me to absorbing influences from around the globe."Muyanga researches aesthetics and thinks about black opera.Heart of Redness is on at Cape Town's Fugard Theatre until August 22. Book at Computicket or www.capetownopera.co.za..

There’s never been a more important time to support independent media.

From World War 1 to present-day cosmopolitan South Africa and beyond, the Sunday Times has been a pillar in covering the stories that matter to you.

For just R80 you can become a premium member (digital access) and support a publication that has played an important political and social role in South Africa for over a century of Sundays. You can cancel anytime.

Already subscribed? Sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.