Monday, March 26, 2012 '''Ziyankomo and the Forbidden Fruit' taste great, shine brightly”

[Daily Maverick Photo: Gabisile & Ziyankomo. (Kelebogile Boikanyo and Given Nkosi)]

“With a burst of new operas like Opera Africa’s newly-premiered Ziyankomo and the Forbidden Fruit and its young cast of wonderfully talented singers, South Africa may now be finding its own, distinct national operatic voice.

“And for the newest effort to locate that authentic South African operatic voice, Opera Africa commissioned Phelelani Mnomiya, the popular gospel composer, to set yet another text by poet Themba Msimang to music. The result is the haunting work, Ziyankomo and the Forbidden Fruit. Msimang’s story takes place during the reign of Mpande, the Zulu king, when two young women in his seraglio have found other lovers.

“Tragically, the customs of Zululand condemn the male suitors to death for this transgression of traditional law. Philosophically, this work is more than just a tale of the supremacy of tribal law over love. In 'Ziyankomo’s' libretto the ancestors asks whether ancient customs are really so noble and right if they have thoroughly tragic consequences. This begins to sound a lot like a Zulu opera verismo, that late 19th and 20th century Italian musical movement that interrogated the lives of ordinary people – their trials, tribulations and dramatic downfalls.”

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