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Happy Birthday from Cape Town

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Nicola Heywood Thomas Nicola Heywood Thomas | 11:45 UK time, Friday, 23 October 2009

The Cape Town Opera began their short UK tour with three performances at Wales Millennium Centre of Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess.

The production, which sets the piece in a derelict building in Johannesburg, was full of life and colour and transferring the action from the United States to South Africa certainly worked for me. Its themes of poverty and racism and the depiction of a community where drug abuse and violence are commonplace strike chords throughout the world.

There was some truly fantastic singing from a cast who seemed to really understand and relate to the tale of two doomed lovers. Hearing the classics like Summertime and It Ain't Necessarily So in the context of Gershwin's entire score was a real treat too and all this comes from an opera company that's only 10 years old.

I'd forgotten that I'd heard some of the Cape Town Opera singers before. They'd performed at the grand opening concert of WMC and perhaps the most moving moment this week was when Xolela Sixaba who sang Porgy came forward at the curtain call to mark the centre's birthday and then led the entire cast in singing Happy Birthday. It brought a tear to my eye - but then I'm the one who cries in just about every Disney cartoon!


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