After years of appearing in the grandest auditoriums and enthralling audiences around the world, two local songbirds have returned home to lead a tour by the Cape Town Opera House for the local rendition of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème.
Zandile Mzazi and Lukhanyo Moyake, two KwaKomani Comprehensive School alumni, will lead the production when it tours East London, Gqeberha, Graaff-Reinet and Oudtshoorn from September.
La Bohème, a portrayal of Bohemianism, follows the lives of the characters Mimi and Rodolfo played by Mzazi and Moyakhe respectively. Having first premiered in 1896 in Turin, Italy, it will be taking a local interpretation under the guidance of the famous and decorated director, Magdalene Minnaar.
“It is not European. We have personalised it to the South African experience. Performers will not be in heavy costumes which depicted early European life, but in normal clothes, in shacks and in front of a braai. What is more South African than that?” said Mzazi.
The two performers are very familiar with each other, having been together at KwaKomani in the early 2000s when they fell in love with the stage.
“It will be my first time performing back home (in the Eastern Cape) since I started my career. My love for the stage started here and many people here watered the seed that has blossomed into this wonderful career,” said Mzazi. From the back row of the school choir, which was conducted by her mother, she went on to join the Vienna Opera House after completing her studies at UCT.
Moyake, who joined the Vienna State Opera in 2018, was with the Cape Town Opera since 2010 and counts La Traviata, Rigoletti and Nabucco as some of his most memorable performances.
La Bohème will be the first in a series of three by the Cape Town Opera. The tour was funded by a grant from the Australian-based Judith Neilson Foundation, enabling the opera to take reduced-size productions to smaller towns around the country, giving gifted singers that are not Cape Town-based the opportunity to receive vocal coaching and to perform live on stage.
Minnaar, who directed the play for the Nelspruit festival in 2019, said it was one of her favourites. “I am not a fan of Puccini per se, but in La Bohème the perfect symbiosis of music and words gives it an organic cohesion that is amazing. It is a relatable story told with the attention to detail you usually only find in films. The characters are paramount, so vibrant that instead of having them subordinate to the set and costumes I have put it the other way around so that the setting supports the characters; this version of La Bohème is set in a township in a dystopian South Africa.”
Moyakhe said he was looking forward to performing in front of a home crowd again. “People know us. Eastern Cape people love opera and many of the people in the audience will have followed our careers and work.” Mzazi added “People must come out and support the show because the music is beautiful. The performers will showcase their own personal expressions of the characters. Because it is local many people will be able to relate to the story and be thoroughly entertained.”