An African La Bohème

2014-08-31 15:00

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Even people with very little knowledge of opera will have heard of Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 opus, La Bohème.

According to a recent study, it ranks with Carmen, La Traviata, Tosca and Madame Butterfly as one of the world’s most popular operas, and is the second most performed piece of all time.

This classic work is now being adapted into a South African film by director Mark Dornford-May. He heads the team that brought the acclaimed U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, an isiXhosa version of Carmen, to the screen.

The film won a prestigious GoldenBear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2005.

More than any company, the team has succeeded in making opera accessible in South Africa.

The shooting for Breathe?–?Umphefumlo began in Stellenbosch last week. The adaptation is set in modern-day South Africa and, like the original, focuses on star-crossed lovers Mimi (Busisiwe Ngejane) and Lungelo (Mhlekazi Mosiea).

“La Bohème is a glittering piece of musical history, but also contains a searing emotional cry for understanding, and action about the brutal realities of the everyday life of the poor and their struggle for shelter, food and medicine.

“This is what we want to bring to the screen,” said Dornford-May in a recent interview.

Legendary opera star and actress Pauline Malefane will produce the score for the film?–?which will be played by an orchestra of marimbas and steel pans?– with Mandisi Dyantyis.

Due to its universality, La Bohème has been adapted countless times across the world, most notably as the Broadway hit production Rent.

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