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Orchestra pit given new lease of life

The Lusaka Playhouse orchestra pit is uncovered for the first time in 30 years

The Lusaka Playhouse orchestra pit is uncovered for the first time in 30 years

A fascinating piece of theatrical history was uncovered this week with the reopening of the Lusaka Playhouse orchestra pit for the first time in many years.

The nerve-centre of musical performances is believed to have been forgotten, hidden and gathering dust beneath the stage of the city’s theatrical home.

Now the OperaZ contemporary classical music group has given the orchestra pit a new lease of life, opening it up for performances once again with the world premiere of Damyna, Damyna being performed there from April 3-5.

An orchestra pit is the part of the theatre where an orchestra plays, between the front of the stage and the audience, and usually set at a lower level.

The OperaZ Orchestra of some 20 classically trained Zambian musicians playing violins, flutes, clarinet, trumpet, cello, horn, bassoon, trombone and piano, will bring the pit – and the stage – back to its former glory, conducted by Theo Bross, and  accompanying a further 20 members of the Kanon Choir, talented soloists and Team Jiva hip hop dancers.

The opera stars soloists are Lulu Imbula, Chrispin Lindunda, Paddy Mukando, Cathrin Mukupa, Stanley Musowe, Josephine Kachiza, Mate Mate and Portia Imbula.

Music direction is by Milupi Imbula; choreography by Michael Malambo; production design by Nadezda Chibanda; stage manager is Chris Mulambwa.

Sponsors include Manzi Valley, Proflight Zambia, ProCharter, Amatheon Agri, Ngoma Dolce Music Academy and Langmead & Baker.

Rehearsals are at an advanced stage for 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 is 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.

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.

The opera will be staged at the Lusaka Playhouse at 19hrs on Thursday, April 3, Friday, April 4 and Saturday, April 5. Tickets are K200 and can be reserved by calling 0976 750044 or emailing

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