South African Zulu Opera Opens Ravinia's 100th Season
Byline: Bill Gowen
A very special event awaits music lovers when the Ravinia Festival officially opens its gates for the centennial 2004 season the weekend of June 4-6.
Following Ravinia's recent commitment to such ground-breaking theater pieces as Osvaldo Golijov's "La Pasion Segun San Marcos" in 2002 and American composer John Adams' "El Nino" last season, this year's festival will open with the American premiere of the first South African Zulu opera, "Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu."
One week before the three performances, Ravinia will bring in 70 performers and a technical crew from South Africa to help stage this truly international event, which, in addition to launching Ravinia Park's 100th season, will celebrate the 10th anniversary of democracy in South Africa.
Ravinia president and CEO Welz Kauffman and his staff have been working closely with many Chicago-area arts and educational institutions in this latest installment of the festival's multicultural artistic initiative.
"Princess Magogo," which combines traditional Western classical music with indigenous Zulu art forms, is the centerpiece of numerous community outreach and education activities throughout the Chicago area.
Composer Mzilikazi Khumalo and librettist Themba Msimang based their opera (which was premiered in Durban, South Africa, in 2002) on the life of the popular Zulu princess of the title, who was herself a singer.
The part will be played by internationally renowned mezzo- soprano Sibongile Khumalo, who originated the role in Durban. She will also perform a Martin Theatre recital with the Ramsey Lewis Trio June 9.
Providing the musical accompaniment for "Princess Magogo" will be the Chicago Sinfonietta, itself a leader in the area's multicultural performing arts scene.
In a related event set for June 15-16, Ravinia will present two performances by the South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, popularized in the United States through Paul Simon's "Graceland" album.
The group will be joined by the Chicago Children's Choir.
Area arts and education organizations involved as partners in the "Princess Magogo" celebration week include Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs, Joffrey Ballet and the Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago.
They will participate in events aimed at sharing American culture with the visiting artists. Columbia College's Center for Black Music Research is also collaborating with Ravinia by distributing related educational materials.
Here's a brief summary of events related to the "Princess Magogo" celebration:
Thursday 27: At 10:30 a. …