In the Press
Stage presence - the catch phrase in the Music and Theatre world which describes the magic of the experience, but is difficult to put into words. Watching the Mandela Trilogy in the "Deutschen Theater' you can feel the magic in the way the almost entirely black cast tell the story of their national hero's anti-Apartheids fight.
The CTO singers can show off their sumptuous voices without any amplification and even the subtle enhancement was not necessary. The Münchner Symphoniker are in the pit and guarantee all-round and solid accompaniment. "Mandela" is a modern "Folk-Opera" with electrifying choral singing.Those who enjoyed "West Side Story" will love this presentation.
For Deutsches Theater this presentation is what "Soldaten" did for the Staatsoper - a very ambitious,highly successful tour de force. And the standing ovations proved it.
Robert Braumuller, Abendzeitung-Muenchen
To stage musicals such as Evita Peron or present Pop Idols such as Falco is probably pretty difficult. However, to stage a musical based on South Africa's famous Freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela, must be like climbing Mount Everest. Michael Williams who is always looking for something new and different for CTO, like a bungee-jumper, took the plunge in his creation of the Mandela Trilogy which has been on a world tour since the previous year and is now in Munich at Deutsches Theater.
Tumultuous applause at the premiere.
The cast's voices range between good to excellent. The story grips you more in the middle part for which Mike Campbell composed the jazzy music in the style of the fifties.
Malve Gradinger, Munchner - Merkur
The prize-winning CTO chorus of 25 members is the essential element in the creation of the dramatic musical. Be it the piercing screams of the women or the sentimental phrases during the arguments between Mandela and his wife, Winnie, their voices and their emotion grab and touch you.
Nelson Mandela who became a world-wide icon even before he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, is suitably depicted in a cosmopolitan framework in the Mandela Trilogy. The cast is always dressed in clothing matching the time frame and requiring only a few accessories here and there. The scaffolding at the back of the stage is easily transformed from village square to prison yard, meeting place or bar counter. The lighting is mainly aimed at the protagonists but also projects background information when required.
With increasing applause ending in standing ovations, the audience expresses two sentiments: the enormous enthusiasm for a very entertaining show by the Cape Town ensemble and the deeply felt empathy for the aims of black people in South Africa. Since 1994 Apartheid no longer exists officially, however you come across it on a daily basis in South Africa and elsewhere. Rapture and passion caused by a musically demanding authentic production - what more do you want for a long and happy premiere-celebration.
Horst Dichanz, Operanetz.de
Mandela Trilogy is an authentic, home-made production which brings one out in goose bumps. The folk-opera succeeds in melding decades of imprisonment, politics, repression and struggle into a musical. There is plenty of folklore and deeply felt emotion with 3 superb voices for the role of Mandela at 3 stages in his life. The
Cape Town Opera Chorus is also made up of gloriously powerful voices. Nelson Mandela the man, has seldom seemed so close as when the opera draws the audience into his story and is moved by it.
Uwe Mitsching, Bayerische Staatszeitung
Politics, prison walls, barbed wire, repression and struggle can make a gripping theatre play but are not the usual stuff of musicals. But the simple message lFreedoml brought the audience to their feet several times during the performance. Director Michael Williams keeps the stage props simple and allows the powerful acting and singing to make the message effective. Set designer, Michael Mitchell keeps to the same approach using back projections which show the rolling hills of Xhosa-land, the huts picked out by the sun and later the forced exodus from the black ghettos. These serve adquately to orientate the audience. It's the singers who carry the message and neither soloists nor chorus need any throat mikes to project their voices - they are already in 'Oversize Format'! After the end of the performance the Xhosa rhythms from the wild Coast continued to echo down the streets of Munich.
Uwe Mitsching, Nürnberger Tageszeitung
Mandela Trilogy is a fragmented piece of different musical styles. Two composers are involved and the music shifts from grand opera with powerful arias and dramatic duets, to traditional Xhosa folk music and then to the jazz sounds in the Sophiatown bars. Although this switching of styles does not at first feel homogeneous it provides the necessary mix for the different stages of Mandela's life. A simple set allows for little distraction from the story. The choreographer has an easy time with the dance numbers as even the largest 'African Mamas' move lightly on their feet and the
costumes are very attractive. All this combined with the incredibly powerful voices of both singers and chorus makes it a worthwhile evening at the opera.
Barbara Renter, Augsburger Allgemeine
To make a musical about a famous person's life is always a tricky undertaking. To try and do this with South Africa's great freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela is rather like trying to climb Mount Everest. The librettist and director of the Mandela Trilogy, Michael Williams has thrown himself into this complex story with the courage of a bunjee jumper. Cape Town Opera has excellent voices, both Aubrey Poo as the young Mandela and Aubrey Lodewyk as the mature man of reconciliation, sing and act convincingly.
The jazzy middle section takes place in Sophiatown where cheeky Zolina Ngjanel s throaty voice, sexy body language and American accent show that South African women can easily compete with Broadway. "In the world of opera, we are still teenagers," said Williams recently. But with these kind of talented young singers available, we shall certainly hear more from Cape Town Opera in the future.
Naive Gradinger, Feuilleton Munich
The opera starts with the sound of metallic percussion as when prisoners hit the bars of their cells with forks or spoons. We know immediately that we're in Africa, in a prison and the theme is conflict. 'Mandela Trilogy' is a hermaphrodite. Part musical, part folk music and part grand opera. This seems odd at first, but it fits the concept of the librettist and director, Michael Williams. He approaches his central figure from three different angles: the young Xhosa man from Qunu, the lawyer and freedom fighter and the old prisoner who becomes South Africa's greatest force for reconciliation. 'Mandela Trilogy' is a brilliant advertisement for Cape Town Opera as a young, efficient ensemble with wonderful singers, almost all of whom are black.
Thomas Watdmann, Baster Zeitung
“A sexy dose of jazz and the refined strains of Western opera and traditional Xhosa song drive a new opera about South Africa’s former president and antiapartheid hero Nelson Mandela... “
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
“The South African singers and orchestra of Welsh National Opera, conducted by Albert Horne, delivered the package with irresistible full-blooded gusto.”
THE TELEGRAPH, UK
“Right from the opening’s sudden siren blare, Williams’s production proceeded so swiftly, so directly, that the evening’s momentum was unstoppable.”
THE TIMES, UK
“Tackling a political subject on stage can translate into pure gold - or sheer suicide. But in the case of Mandela Trilogy, the gamble has paid off richly, resulting in an impressive entertainment product of export quality. It is a sensitive and evocative re-imagining of the Mandela legend performed by an amazing company (who dance really well too).”
“A performance where there is much rejoicing even in times of sadness and where pride and self-respect shine through some of the darkest moments in South Africa’s history.”
“The Cape Town Opera and Voice of the Nation Ensemble can only be commended for a musically faultless performance...”
JENNIFER DE KLERK
“Mandela Trilogy is bursting with potential and could be South Africa’s biggest export. This production is proudly South African through and through. The opera singers in particular were outstanding giving me goose bumps. Nelson Mandela’s story is one that inspires us all. Mandela Trilogy is en route to do so too.”