OPERA PREMIERE TRIUMPHS IN LUSAKA
Fifty-strong cast showcases local talent
Music-lovers, opera buffs and Zambia’s glitterati turned out in droves for the world premiere of Damyna, Damyna at the Lusaka Playhouse last week (April 3-5).
The cast received a standing ovation from the delighted audience on the final night following the three-day run of the colourful opera, which featured more than 50 classically trained Zambian musicians and singers.
The OperaZ Orchestra, Kanon Choir and Team Jiva dancers showcased some of the country’s best talent in Damyna, Damyna, a story of drama, romance and intrigue that explored the conflicts of modern-day society.
“I loved this opera. I loved it because of the love and effort that went into making it. I loved it because of the ownership of the performers and the obvious delight each of them showed in performing,” said music teacher and opera aficionado Julie Chilton, who watched the show.
Local performers were joined by five guest musicians from the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Academy in Germany, and were conducted by renowned conductor Theo Bross.
The opera starred soloists Lulu Imbula, Chrispin Lindunda, Paddy Mukando, Cathrin Mukupa, Stanley Musowe, Josephine Kachiza, Mate Mate and Portia Imbula.
Music direction was by Milupi Imbula, choreography by Michael Malambo, production design by Nadezda Chibanda, stage manager was Chris Mulambwa, lighting by Patrick Mwanza, Vernon Munenga.
The Kanon Choir chorus comprised Annie Namiluko, Anniesha Angenda, Belita Mengo, Danani Longwe, Daniel Mwalwambe, Elizabeth Changano, Kennedy Liywali, Lucy Akapelwa, Maimbolwa Akabana, Maria Kachiza, Miyanda Nyambe, Mutafela Mutafela, Nicholas Nkomesha, Ntombizine Chipangula, Richard Mubayaeta, Tom Chiponge, Ulande Nkomesha, Thandiwe Sakala.
The OperaZ orchestra comprised Clark Siachaba (Flute), Isaac Mayungo (Cello), Kebby Moola (Clarinet), Levan Muleya (Violin), Mark Msadala (Violin), Nathan Kabeya (Violin), Numwa Ndopu (Trumpet), Oscar Maambo (Horn), Terence Kamwi (Double Bass), Andrew Olsen (Viola).
Guest musicians were Agnese Eglina (piano), Anne-Alice Aubry (bassoon), Christian Pohl (oboe), Luka Alexander (percussion), Ying Chen Wang (violin).
Team Jiva dancers were Anthony Kasongo, David Kunda, Frank Chris Sinyangwe, Laura Chinkuli, Morris Fenete, Oscar Mubanga, Wana Shachile, Winter Kasikili.
Sponsors included Manzi Valley, Proflight Zambia, ProCharter, Amatheon Agri, , Capital Fisheries, Ngoma Dolce Music Academy and Langmead & Baker.
It was the collective’s first performance of the opera, which explores the conflicts between traditional rural life in Zambia and the attractions and challenges of modern urban living. Essentially a love story, the allegory also examines controversial issues surrounding orphans, donor influence, the gap between rich and poor and the everyday struggles of rural life.
The opera was composed and written by long-term Zambia resident Dr Peter Langmead, who has spent much of his working life travelling throughout Zambia for his work, drawing inspiration for the composition from his experiences and observation.
The story is of a Zambian story of a girl child, Damyna, who is nearly sold to her mother’s moneylender but is then brought up by her mother’s sister, Mrs Bwalya. To avoid difficulties with her half-brother, Por Phiri, his mother ensures he believes she is his real sister, but they love each other dearly.
Trouble arrives in the compound when two attractive consultants (Kati Poult and Given Chansa) arrive to change their farming, one European, one African.
The international brother falls in love with the European girl, the African consultant falls in love with Damyna, with some erroneous help from a drunken witch doctor, who assumes Damyna and Por are really brother and sister.
In the second Act, the witch doctor has to correct his mistake but is nearly foiled by Damyna’s adopted mother’s husband claiming to be the father of both Damyna and Por, and looking like the witch doctor.
Damyna’s adopted mother however says her husband is not actually the father of her son, so Damyna and Por can now marry, while Damyna’s high ranking and uniformed real father at the wedding also looks remarkably like the witch doctor.
“Damyna Damyna is about the realities of life familiar to many people, but the show also has magical touches and quite a few surprises.” said Dr Langmead. “It is also an opportunity for people to see the remarkable – and often hidden – talent that we have in Zambia.”
Dr Langmead’s vision is to restore opera’s reputation as an entertainment event for ordinary people, rather than an elitist art form. He aims to encourage and stage new compositions by new composers, and break the mould, rather than dwell on the traditional Western classical pieces.
Instead he hopes to impart his enthusiasm and passion for contemporary classical music to a new generation of young performers and artists who are keen to break down the barriers between old and new, traditional and modern, and classical and contemporary music.