Freedom opera to mark milestones

23 March 2004

When UCT alumnus Judge Albie Sachs said: "When the prisoners emerged from their cages at the end of Act I my whole body trembled. This had been the experience of our generation. We had survived jail, life in the underground, banishment, exile. Our ideas triumphed. Beethoven was speaking for us in glorious, unashamed voice", he was referring to the legendary "freedom opera" Fidelio.

It was 1994, the year democracy was born in South Africa, and the venue was the Artscape Theatre. To mark the 10th anniversary of that milestone the City of Cape Town and Cape Town Opera will present Fidelio on Robben Island on Saturday, March 27.

Directed by UCT's Professor Angelo Gobbato, with an international cast and throngs of UCT opera students, the production will be recorded by SABC TV for broadcast in April as part of national celebrations.

The good news is that UCT - to mark our 175th birthday - and the City of Cape Town will broadcast the opera live on a big screen at the Greenpoint Track (behind McDonalds) near the Waterfront. So bring along your picnics, blankets and cushions and enjoy the sumptuous production at the track's natural amphitheatre. The screening is from 18h30 to 21h30.

This special staging of Fidelio also marks another bond; recognition of 150 years of friendship between South Africa and Norway. To this end, the Norwegian National Opera has come on board with both funding (the production will also enjoy support from National Lotteries, the Western Cape Provincial Government and the Western Cape Cultural Commission) and manpower, providing a conductor and concert master.

Norwegians will sing the roles of jailer Rocco and the governor of the state prison, Don Pizarro, while South Africa's foremost singers will appear in principal roles. Bjorn Simensen, CEO of Norwegian National Opera said: "Fidelio is the ultimate manifestation of the victory of the human spirit over evil and oppression. The courtyard where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many years is the most spectacular natural setting for the 'freedom' opera."

The event is free.

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