South African Troupe Dimpho Di Kopane Reinvents Carmen, The Beggar's Opera and Hans Christian Andersen in NYC

News   South African Troupe Dimpho Di Kopane Reinvents Carmen, The Beggar's Opera and Hans Christian Andersen in NYC Dimpho Di Kopane, South Africa's leading lyric theatre company, makes its New York debut Oct. 27-Nov. 28 with new native-music approaches to Carmen, The Beggar's Opera and more as part of a series called "Season South Africa."
A scene from Dimpho Di Kopane's Yiimimangaliso The Mysteries
A scene from Dimpho Di Kopane's Yiimimangaliso The Mysteries

The internationally acclaimed company will be in the city to present 25 performances of four new pieces over a five-week period.

Dimpho Di Kopane's pieces are a unique mixture of stories well-known to both Western and African heritage combined and filtered through the native tongue, sounds and visual style of South African culture.

The company is scheduled to perform Yiimimangaliso The Mysteries; Ibali Ioo Tsoti The Beggar's Opera; IKumkanikazi yeKhephu The Snow Queen; and U-Carmen in repertory at Synod Hall in The Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Yiimimangaliso The Mysteries takes its inspiration from the 12th century Mystery Cycles in which biblical stories were performed as street theatre throughout Europe. The score for this piece is based entirely on vocals and is accompanied by performers “playing” found objects from scrap yards and other places. All music is drawn from ancient and modern Xhosa, Afrikaans, Zulu and Dutch sources.

Based upon John Gay's 1728 satire The Beggar's Opera, the company's Ibali Ioo Tsoti The Beggar's Opera re-creates the famous tale of greed and robbery as “an indigenous piece of inventive theatre, which rekindles the musical fire of the original through the combination of old England and the new South Africa.” Finding its root from a more contemporary source, IKumkanikazi yeKhephu The Snow Queen is a re-interpreted version of Hans Christian Andersen story set in South Africa and featuring traditional Xhosa music and ceremonies. This piece was commissioned by the Hans Christian Andersen 2005 Bicentennial Celebration in Denmark and is making its world premiere in New York.

Finally, the company will present the first ever African-language translation of Bizet's immortal opera Carmen. Entitled U-Carmen, the piece “tells a visceral tale of love, jealously, revenge, desire and madness, tracing the destruction of a woman who cannot and will not become what men want her to be.”

Consisting of 40 members, Dimpho Di Kopane (which when translated from Sotho means “combined talents”) brings together the skills and creative ideas of all its members when creating new work. Many of the performers had a scant amount of, if any at all, formal musical training before joining the company.

Founded in 2000 by Mark Dornford-May and Charles Hazlewood, Dimpho Di Kopane has played to sold out houses on four continents since its inception. Dornford-May and Hazlewood were serving as artistic directors of London's Broomhill Opera when they were approached about forming a company in Cape Town, South Africa. The aim “was twofold — to provide an opportunity for South Africans to develop their musical performance talents, and to promote South Africa's inherent musical talent both locally and abroad.”

"Season South Africa," a Spier Initiative with support from Brand South Africa, Nando's, Hollard Insurance and Spier Wines, is a four-month program of contemporary visual and performing arts from South Africa that is being presented in New York City from September 2004 through January 2005.

In addition to the five weeks of performances by Dimpho Di Kopane, the series includes lectures and programs alongside the visual art exhibit "Personal Affects: Power and Poetics in Contemporary South African Art" at the Museum for African Art.

Tickets are $50 ($30 for previews), with $25 tickets for seniors and students, and can be purchased by calling CityTix at (212) 581-1212, or online at www.nycitycenter.org , or in person at the Synod Hall box office (located at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street in New York City).

For more information call (212) 932-7314 or visit www.seasonsouthafrica.org .

A scene from Dimpho Di Kopane's <i>Ibali Ioo Tsoti The Beggar's Opera</i>
A scene from Dimpho Di Kopane's Ibali Ioo Tsoti The Beggar's Opera