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Volume 12 - Issue 9 - June 2007

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LuMINATO: Danger meets

LuMINATO: Danger meets opportunityThe Passion of Winnie (part one)by David PerlmanIn the torrent of releases from the Luminarngang, one in particular jumped out:"Ms. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Visits CanadaFor Luminato 's World Premiere of MusicaNoir 'sThe Passion Of Winnie. The 'Mother of the Nation'will be the keynote speaker at a special benefitgala A Night In Soweto, June 5 and will attendthe opening night peiformance (June 8) of filmmakerWarren Wilensky and composer Bongani Ndodana­Breen 's exciting new multi-media opera, ... chartingthe journey of the South African struggle forfreedom through the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela,... a story that looks beyond the politics ofApartheid and examines an untold personal journeythat weaves loss and tragedy with hope and the miraculousbirth of freedom in South Africa. "The f!assi~n of Winnie is a second foray byMus1caN01r's Ndodana-Breen into multidisciplinarywork incorporating film, digital mediaand new music. The film narrative is projectedfrom five projectors onto three screensspecially built by filmmaker Warren Wilensky,who also wrote the libretto; onstage achamber orchestra of 16 musicians, 8 vocalistsand 2 soloists perform live. The workbuilds on the success of MusicaNoir' s previousinter-arts project, Orange Cloud, whichwas a fusion of film, music and poetry createdby Bongani Ndodana-Breen, Geoffrey Pugenand renowned filmmaker John Greyson. (Universityof Windsor-educated Chantelle Grantwho plays Winnie in this project, worked withNdodana Breen in Orange Cloud as well.). Startling as it seems, The Passion of Winnie1s barely a year old as a collaboration and thedecision to take the plunge and stage i~ for Lu­~inarn w~s made barely six months ago - notime at all m the painfully inch-by-inch worldof composer/librettist collaboration. And ifeither Wilensky or Ndodana-Breen, theproject's two South African-born animateurshad thought that this would be a gentle test- 'drive for their ambitious undertaking, the announcementof the Madikizela-Mandela visiteffectively dispelled the notion.I managed phoneconversations withsome of the peopleinvolved inThe Passionof Winnie - time ~---------....1stolen from intense rehearsal, barely a weekbefore the big event. Ndodana-Breen andWilensky kept emphasising the fact that this isPart One. "The final aria in this version"Bongani said "is definitely the end of part oneof Winnie's story but when the project is even­!Ually ~ll.Y realized, you'd only be looking atmterm1ss1on at that point ... about 70 minutesin." Part One takes her from being a littlegirl in a Transkei village (one that Wilenskyspent months filming) up to 1986.This is the moment reflected on our cover.Matchbox in hand, Winnie sings (as 22 yearsago she spoke): "There are traitors in ourmids~ ... By the rubber tire necklace ... By theburning petrol necklace ... With a common boxof matches ... We will liberate our people andthis land ... "(Imagine a work set in post-911 New Yorkculminating in an exhortation to "the people"to use b?x cutters to liberatory effect, and youcan be?m topasp the difficulty of incubating awork hke this m South Africa itself, withoutthe discussion of the artistic merit of the workbeing drowned out in all the other kinds of discoursethat would ensue.)"So is it going to be sufficiently reverentialnot to offend the 'Mother of the Nation'? Iasked. "The facts are the facts," Bonganisaid. "It's a work of art and therefore moreabout the human condition than it is about moralityor politics. What has been said and doneis said and done. As artists you put it forward."Hopefully the inevitable hullaballoo aroundthe (real) passionate Ms M. 's visit will notcompletely drown out what Chantelle Grantdescribes as "the extraordinary sonorities " ofNdo.dana-Breen's musical writing.Life after Lumina TO will be interesting forthis particular work.28 concertsChoirs, Orchestras,Pianists, Quartets

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