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Wednesday, July 17, 2013


As part of the South Africa France Season 2012 2013, the Festival Musiques Interdites, under the direction of Michel Pastore, invited the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra from Durban to present an historic performance of Jan Meyerowitz’s opera The Barrier versus Le Mulatre in the inner courtyard of the magnificent Prefecture building.

On July 11, the Orchestra, conducted by maestro Johan Fargot, gave a superlative rendition of this little-heard opera, a tale of family conflict and tragedy set in the racial turmoil of the American deep south. French bass baritone, Nicolas Cavallier, ably captured the emotional dilemma faced by white landowner, Norwood, whilst South African soloists portrayed the other challenging roles – Nobulumko Mngxekeza, soprano, as Cora the mother of Sally (soprano Kelebogile Boikanyo), William (baritone Aubrey Lodewyk) and Bert (baritone Mandisinde Mbuyazwe). Piecing the dramatic tale together as narrator was the well-known French actor and television personality, Jacques Martial.

Though the opera was sung in French the audience, assisted by surtitles, was swept away by the richness of the voices and the precision of the orchestra’s performance, requiring no amplification in the excellent acoustics of the Prefecture courtyard.

The Prefecture was once more the perfect setting for Saturday evening’s concert which featured a rainbow selection of compositions. The KZN Philharmonic, again under the baton of Johan Fargot, opened their performance with Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Beautiful interpretations of pieces by Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Saint SaĆ«ns and Karol Beffa followed before the magnificent voices of Nozuko Teto (soprano), Aubrey Lodewyk (baritone) and Derick Ellis (tenor) joined the Orchestra to sing extracts from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, J S Mzilikazi Khumalo’s Ushaka Overture and three extracts from Pieter Louis van Dyk’s Mandela Trilogy. The immense significance of the closing pieces was not lost on the appreciative audience, as the birthday of elder statesman, Nelson Mandela, approaches on July 18.

Commissioners General of the France South Africa Season, Laurent Clavel (France) and Bongani Tembe (South Africa), were overwhelmed by the powerful combination of South African and French artistry in the magnificence of the Marseille Prefecture setting. Mr Tembe, also Chief Executive of the KZN Philharmonic said: “These two performances undoubtedly set the tone for furthering the strong cultural relationship that the Season is highlighting between our nations”.

On July 18, as part of the South African Season in France to mark International Nelson Mandela Day, which promotes 67 minutes of selfless service, the KZN Philharmonic, conducted by Laurent Petitgirard will perform a selection of South African compositions. The Clermont Community Choir from Durban, praise poet Melusi Kubheka, a range of South African soloists and a guest performance by Yvonne Chaka Chaka, will make this an unforgettable event. It is a free open-air concert commencing at 21h30 on the newly-renovated Place de la Republique by invitation of the Paris quartier d’ete festival.

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