The Magic Flute at the Broad in Santa Monica Review – Isango Ensemble Enchants and Enthralls

Internationally acclaimed Isango Ensemble, on its first ever U.S. tour, launched the first of six performances of The Magic Flute at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. Winner of the Olivier Award for “Best Musical Revival,” Isango transforms the Mozart classic into a South African-fused performance featuring an orchestra of marimbas. The show also previously received the Globes de Cristal for Best Opera Production following a sold-out season at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

 

 

Drawn from Cape Town’s surrounding townships, the multi-talented cast, mostly starting with raw talent, has toured the world and played to sold out theaters in Paris and London, uniquely presenting classical European operas and theatre through a South African lens. Unlike other performances of Mozart’s much-loved Magic Flute, Isango’s take on it is an enthralling, original work, with fabulous African-style dance numbers (Clungelo Ngamlana choreography) and colorful African patterned costumes (by Leigh Bishop), superb singing, and uniquely inventive music (arrangements by co-director Pauline Melefane, and Mandisi Dyantyis). The opening overture, an impressive, all-marimba adaptation of Mozart’s original score, is led by conductor Mandisi Dyantyis, on a sloped bare stage flanked by marimba players, with a corrugated wall backdrop reminiscent of South African townships. His frontal image is projected on a sheet dropped from the ceiling so the audience can see his facial expressions. The talented players constantly surprise and delight when transitioning with apparent ease from their roles as singers and actors, to perform as drummers and marimba musicians—for the majority a newly acquired skill since joining the ensemble. Their joy is infectious and palpable!

 

 

It’s helpful to read the synopsis and know a bit of the story about Tamino’s (Mhlekazi ‘Wha Wha’ Mosiea) love for Pamina (Zolina Ngejane), their being kept away from each other, and having to go through trials and tribulations to unite. Still, even without an explanation, the staged movements assure understanding of the major events. Joy and sorrow, undeserved persecution, redemption, forgiveness, and love—the many human elements are present. The audience is completely immersed when the ensemble descends into the aisles to joins the viewers watching the proceedings regarding the young lovers, and periodically calling out “liberte” to free the pair from their suffering. It would be an understatement to say the voices are electrifying, each one adding it’s own uniquely lovely tone to the overall performance.

 

 

Pauline Malefane, founding member of the company, as Queen of the Night, has a remarkable vocal range and a riveting intensity. Ayanda Eleki who plays Sarastro, the fair and resolute tribal elder, saunters in white billowy robes, and sings with a reverberating bellowing bass that you can feel as well as hear.  The audience applause and standing ovation was well deserved by the entire cast for the incredible performances and talent they brought to the stage. Kudos to the Cast, Director and co- Director, costume designer, set designer, choreographer, and lighting designer for a wonderful all round performance of the award winning Isango Ensemble that portrays the universality of the message and music in this remarkable re-imagining of Mozart’s Magic Flute.

Unfortunately, the show is only running for a few days—I highly recommend seeing it before it’s too late.

Renowned actor Sir Ian McKellen says, "The Isango Ensemble is unique. I believe no other theatre group in the world so successfully brings old theatre classics into a modern, wholly African expression."

Adapted and directed by Mark Dornford-May

Co-founder and co-Music Director of Isango Ensemble: Pauline Melefane

CAST:

Pauline Malefane as Queen of the Night.

Zamile Gantana as Papageno
Nontsusa Louw as Papagena
Zolina Ngejane as Pamina
Mhlekazi ‘Wha Wha’ Mosiea as Tamino
Sinethemba Mdena as Monostatos
Ayanda Tikolo as Sarastro
Zamile Gantana as Papageno
Nontsusa Louw as Papagena
Zolina Ngejane as Pamina
Mhlekazi ‘Wha Wha’ Mosiea as Tamino
Sinethemba Mdena as Monostatos
Ayanda Tikolo as Sarastro
Zamile Gantana as Papageno
Nontsusa Louw as Papagena
Zolina Ngejane as Pamina
Mhlekazi ‘Wha Wha’ Mosiea as Tamino
Sinethemba Mdena as Monostatos
Ayanda Tikolo as Sarastro

Music Arrangement: Pauline Malefane and Mandisi Dyantyis
Choreography: Clungelo Ngamlana

Costumes: Leigh Bishop

Original Lighting: Mannie Manim

Who: Isango Ensemble

What: The Magic Flute

Where: The Eli & Edythe Broad Stage / 1310 11th St. Santa Monica CA 90401

When: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 / 7:30PM (Opening Night) Thursday, October 9, 2014 / 7:30PM

Friday, October 10, 2014 / 7:30PM Saturday, October 11, 2014 / 2PM Saturday, October 11, 2014 / 7:30PM Sunday, October 12, 2014 / 4:00PM

Tickets: Prices $39-$98


at

The Broad Stage in Santa Monica

or call the Box Office at 310.434.3200

Parking is free.

 

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