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CAPE Town Opera’s 36-performanace UK tour of Porgy and Bess, climaxing this week in London’s magnificent Coliseum Theatre in the West End, is not the only one making friends and sound waves abroad this year.
The Gilbert and Sullivan Society is taking its recent Artscape production of The Yeomen of the Guard to the International Festival of Gilbert and Sullivan in Buxton, Derbyshire, next month, the same month that Pieter Toerien exports his fabulous Phantom to the Philippines, Hong Kong and Korea on a tour that is to last until March.
Three other CTO ventures bring to 160 the grand total of talented South African ensembles gaining overseas experience, if not necessarily valuable earnings.
The 53 G&S members perform for love, though their expenses are partially paid.
Penny Simpson’s beautiful Yeomen costumes are being freighted to the three-tiered Victorian opera house, but Tina Driedijk’s revolving set of the Tower of London stays behind. This means that Teddy Davies must redirect the production to fit the standard sets provided for competitors drawn from amateur and professional societies around the world.
“I’ve seen photos of the set so know what to expect,” he said cheerfully.
“We broke for two weeks at the end of the Cape Town run and are beginning rehearsals with the new sets in mind. The Buxton stage is smaller and raked, but we’ve competed twice before in this festival. In 2005 we took Pirates of Penzance and in 2007 The Gondoliers. We have won awards, but have never come first. Maybe this year…”
For the 75 members of Team Cape Town Opera with Porgy and Bess, the wet English summertime and the livin’ ain’t necessarily been so easy, but they have clocked up a lifetime of interesting experiences as they packed and followed their production to six cities over seven weeks.
Short seasons took the all-SA cast to Birmingham, Edinburgh (where it was given five stars), Cardiff, Canterbury and Southampton. The tour ends with 14 performances in the West End, when London is buzzing with pre-Olympic Games fever.
They’ve also revisited the prestigious Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff for the European premiere on June 21 and 22 of a new production of Mandela Trilogy – a musical tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela. This was recorded and broadcast on Welsh television.
The singers have twice put themselves out for good causes. On their only free night they gave an Africa choral concert at Oxford University’s famous Sheldonian Theatre designed by Christopher Wren.
This was in aid of the Lord’s Taverners, a club of cricket lovers that raises money for children.
On Monday, July 16, a group ran a workshop for pupils at a school in London’s deprived East End on Wednesday, in recognition of Mandela Day and his 94th birthday.
They turned up at Whitechapel’s Thomas Buxton Primary to teach youngsters aged 10 and 11 to sing Summertime.
They chose this gem because CTO has “relocated” Porgy and Bess to the Soweto Township, making it relevant to the work of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.
It was explained that Mandela Day was an annual celebration of his life and values and a global call for individuals to give 67 minutes of their time to benefit others in recognition of the 67 years Mandela spent campaigning for human rights.
The opera cast spent 67 minutes, and more, teaching the youngsters.
Toerien’s touring Phantom production from next month until March includes Jonathan Roxmouth (playing the title role on certain nights), Jason Ralph (Monsieur Andre), and Thabiso Masemene (Phangi). As in the case of the show’s tour in 2004 and 2005 to Shanghai, China and Korea the producers reserve top billing for big Hollywood “names” to draw the audience.
In all, the CTO is sending 100 people overseas this year to sing for their supper.
Five will be going next month to New York’s Glimmer Glass Theatre for Lost in the Stars; 55 in September to Australia for three concerts to open the Hamer Hall in the Arts Centre Melbourne, and 60 singers to Berlin in September to provide the choir in the full-length concert version of Porgy and Bess, with Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.
l See www.capetownopera.co.za