BE SO PESSIMISTIC ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA
South African arts journalist
is the New Republic to get it so wrong about South Africa,
particularly Cape Town? Yes, the Capab Opera Company was disbanded
but it still exists as Cape Town City Opera without singers
on salary and is very active, thanks to energetic fund raising.
The company's program for this year includes "Porgy and
Bess" (May) a new opera by a local writer-composer in
(June), a Verdi centenary festival of "Ballo," "Rigoletto,"
and "Macbeth" followed by a Requiem and "La
Capab Ballet had its subsidy spun down to nothing over a few
years, it became a non-profit company and continued as Cape
Town City Ballet. It has downsized, but when we had 60 dancers
it was a lot for a small city. It has reduced management without
loss of quality, and now has a board under the chairmanship
of the principal of Cape Town University School of Dance.
have managed to produce new ballets, present a Choo San Goh
(not cheap), offer a place to the leading dancer of the State
Theatre company when it was summarily disbanded. And the audience
is growing again. They performed a world-class "Giselle"
recently, have "Two Pidgeons" at the Oude Libertas,
and "Swan Lake" next month.
the drama side, Pieter Toerien is still producing play after
play at his Johannesburg and Cape Town theatres. He has just
opened a new theatre in a casino-shopping complex to replace
the old one, in a now run-down area but his Camps Bay house
is never dark.
groups are forming, long or short term, to present plays.
What is heartening is that when the State Theatre was mothballed
and a production of "Death of a Salesman" cancelled,
the cast and crew decided to go ahead at their own risk and
produced a triumph, now touring.
Johannesburg, the Agfa Theatre on the Square, in an up-market
shopping area, is doing extremely well. The Nico in Cape Town
was busier last year than ever and the Baxter was hardly dark.
Small theatres like On Broadway and the Gauloises Warehouse
in Cape Town are constantly busy. The Cape Comedy Collective
appears at the little Armchair Theatre. Shakespeare in the
open air continues an unbroken annual string under the management
of Artscape, which took over from Capab.
in the broadest sense is extremely active, as it shakes down
after the disappearance of a combination of state subsidised
companies and protest theatre, which characterised it for
decades. New playwrights are appearing. Players are doing
it for themselves at venues like the Baxter - not a makeshift
theatre - where Fiona Coyne's second play ran for three seasons.
New Republic is confused about our orchestra. The CTSO was
a municipal symphony orchestra for over 70 years, not government
supported. We currently have three orchestras in Cape Town,
the Philharmonic having taken over the weekly concerts to
critical acclaim. There is one at Spier for its opera season
and a third which is making original efforts to capture a
new audience. riter-composer Michael Williams has managed
to raise a great deal of money for Cape Town City Opera.
are too many great voices emerging in this country, most of
them black, for it to wither away and, with the likes of award-winning,
home-grown Sibongile Ngoma and Fikile Mvinjelwa heading the
cast, the Euro-centric label will go. There's no need to be
IN SOUTH AFRICA: "The
South African government has drastically reduced arts spending.
Government subsidy for European cultural expressions no longer
exists. Whatever the reasons for this, whether to help promote
an indigenous African culture or to punish those who voted
against the ANC, in Cape Town the policy has already resulted
in the loss of the city's opera company, ballet company, and
symphony orchestra. The theater still survives after a fashion,
partly because it can still draw on private funding."
The New Republic 02/12/01
IN THE FUTURE TENSE: In
South Africa it's hard not to make theatre that reacts to
the country's recent political past. But "a new generation
of writers and performers each in their own way are approaching
being South African in a way that is enriched by new-found
freedoms. They are exploring new ways of being and discarding
a theatrical approach that relies exclusively on reacting
to the past or on seeing the present purely in terms of being
a victim of the past." The Independent (South Africa)
ORCHESTRAS IN SOUTH AFRICA:
South Africa's tradional arts organizations have been in turnoil
since the government has cut back funding. Last July the Cape
Town Philharmonic Orchestra went out of business. Now not
one, not two, but three new orchestras are set to come into
being. "Interested parties are convinced that Cape Town
cannot support two orchestras, let alone a third. The tragedy-farce
started after the CTPO management decided to liquidate the
orchestra in an attempt to avoid the financial implications
of paying a retrenchment package to its 80 musicians."
Mail & Guardian (South Africa) 11/09/00