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Dr. Bongani Ndodana-Breen “Composing South Africa” Lecture, Univ. of Bayreuth, Virtual, 29 April 2021

Thursday, April 29, 2021
6pm-7:30pm MESZ
Zoom – Registration Required

The Lecture Series “Oper bewegt”, hosted by the Musicology Department of the University of Bayreuth, presents a talk by Dr. Bongani Ndodana-Breen: “Composing South Africa: History, Resistance, Politics and Opera”.

South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen explores how his operas “Winnie, The Opera” based on the life of Winnie Mandela and “Hani” based on slain activist Chris Hani, emerged out of his country’s turbulent socio-political history. Beyond the historical narrative, Ndodana-Breen will expound his ideas on African indigenous languages and culture in opera. The discussion includes the influence of African music and anti-apartheid protest music in his compositional style, and how these take up residency within his operatic work.

Dr. Bongani Ndodana-Breen was in 2019/2020 a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University and received his PhD in composition at Rhodes University in South Africa. He is not only well-known for his academic reflections on South African opera production but also received international acclaim for his opera composition “Winnie, The Opera”, which premiered in 2011 in Pretoria. After Dr. Bongani Ndodoana-Breen’s talk we invite all participants to engage with us in a discussion on the topic.

For registration for the event please contact until the latest noon of the 29th of April. After registration you will receive a mail with the zoom-link for the event.

The presentation will be recorded and made available on the homepage of the Musicology Department after the event.

For more information:

Africa and the Diaspora on the Contemporary Opera Stage

Details to be confirmed

Black politics is in a phase of global renewal and alliance-forming, with TikTok activists engaged in #BlackLivesMatter and Hong Kong protests, repurposing social media platforms to diverse causes. Colonial, Confederate and slave trader memorial statuary has fallen from Cape Town to Bristol, signaling global trends in protest and resistance to long-established hegemonies. Artists and audiences are also listening outside traditionally assigned genres, and this listening is not merely random, but signals new identity formations. Contemporary opera has heard voices of both a renewed black polity and the willingness to work outside inherited genres. Likewise, however, composers and practitioners are embracing opera as ‘traditional’ form, to reinscribe it with previously untold narratives and meanings. In what ways are Africa and its diaspora telling their own stories on the contemporary opera stage?

Talking points may include, but won’t be limited to:

  • operatic adaptation of existing works (within and across genres)
  • the re-appropriation of contentious forms
  • formal experiments, such as Mthwakazi’s Xhopera
  • ‘traditional’ opera by black creators
  • opera and/as activism

The Operatic Enterprise and the Racialised Politics of Place

Details to be confirmed

For all the international and global aspects of current opera-making, each operatic event unfolds in a particular place and time. In these contexts local, regional and national realities inflect the work’s significance. In tension with the local context, discourses of race, ethnicity, class, empire, nation and gender play out across the stage even before the first note is sung.

Relevant works and productions for consideration may include, but won’t be limited to:

  • Memories in Mind: Women of the Windrush in London (2019)
  • Princess Magogo at the Ravinia Festival, Italy (2004)
  • Romeo’s Passion, a community opera presented in Johannesburg (2018)
  • Brett Bailey’s free translation, truncation and polemic recontextualisation of Verdi’s Macbeth in Cape Town (2014)
  • Aida in Cairo

The First Black Opera Research Network Symposium

University of Huddersfield

March 2021

Details for this event will be finalised once greater clarity about the Covid-19 pandemic exists.