Friday, June 20, 2014

Mzilikazi Khumalo, South African Professor of Languages and Composer of 'Princess Magogo,' Opera Based on Zulu History, Was Born June 20, 1932

The South African composer, arranger and choral director who was born as James Stephen Mzilikazi Khumalo now goes by the name Mzilikazi Khumalo. He is also a Professor Emeritus of African Languages. He was born June 20, 1932 and is profiled at

SAMRO, the Southern African Music Rights Organization, maintains a comprehensive biography which is the primary source for this page. It begins with the composer's birth in 1932 on a Salvation Army farm: “James Stephen Mzilikazi Khumalo was born on 20 June 1932 on the Salvation Army farm, KwaNgwelu (known as Mountain View in English), in the Vryheid district of Natal, South Africa, where his parents were being trained as Salvation Army ministers.”
A detailed interview with Prof. Mzilikazi Khumalo is found at the SAMRO website:

A recent overview of South African opera appeared in Daily Maverick:

Madiba’s Song: Opera and the state in post-Apartheid South Africa
J Brooks Spector26 May 2014  [Excerpt]
Most notably, after its debut in South Africa, Mzilikazi Khumalo’s Princess Magogo has been performed abroad and – after several rewrites - is probably South Africa’s best-known locally written opera. Drawn from the true story of a daughter of a Zulu king who was ordered to compose her music in order to rally a conquered, shattered society, thereby surrendering her desires for love and a family, the work made use of more usual operatic conventions as well as inspiration from Magogo’s actual compositions.
From its enthusiastic reception in South Africa as well as a favourable reception at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, Khumalo’s opera (orchestrated by others) seems to have led the way for a rethink for South African officialdom – and a real volte-face about the uses of opera in the battle to sculpt a new nation. No longer just for those Eurocentric wannabes, opera was now a tool to demonstrate that the new South Africa could play in the cultural big leagues – that this so-called provincial nation could also do the operatic dance. 

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