One of the most moving and important novels to emerge from South Africa, Alan Paton's legendary Cry the Beloved Country, comes to the stage at Cape Town's Artscape this month. Taking the form of a musical, Lost in the Stars brilliantly combines jazz, blues, folk music and spirituals with classically styled arias to tell the stirring story of two ageing fathers - one black and the other white - who are brought together by a shared grief.
Some of the lead cast members of Lost in the Stars. From left to right, Back row: Patrick Tikolo; Chuma Sopotela; Thami Mbongo; Gloria Bosman. From left to right, Front row: Thulani Tini; Liso Gcwabe; Daniel Coetzee.
Broadway lyricist Maxwell Anderson had first come upon Paton's book in 1948, when the wife of the famous composer Oscar Hammerstein lent him a pre-publication copy. Deeply impressed, he immediately suggested a collaboration with his friend, the German-American composer, Kurt Weill, and obtained permission and input from Alan Paton himself.
Lost in the Stars opened on Broadway in New York on 30 October 1949 - to instant acclaim. Critics wrote that it had "excitement, flavour, heart, a stern authority and a beautifully integrated score". Queues of eager theatre-goers formed around the block on the day after its opening night.
And now, fittingly, this vibrant and compassionate work will be given new life in the country that inspired it, in a Cape Town Opera production directed by Emmy Award-nominated US director, Tazewell Thompson. A host of outstanding South African singers will perform the great songs of Weill's brooding score: Patrick Tikolo stars as the Reverend Stephen Khumalo opposite Graham Weir as James Jarvis, with Gloria Bosman and CTO Voice of the Nation Studio singers, Nonhlanhla Yende and Tshepo Moagi. It will be conducted by Albert Horne, with Michael Mitchell's designs and Sbo Ndaba's choreography evoking the South Africa of the late 1940s.
Weill himself said of the work: "We're all here on the same little planet, floating along in the universe, and we're all lost in the stars... black and white, rich and poor, the fools and the wise. Do you see the perspective it gives on the relations between races, between majority and minority groups, between one man and another all over the globe?"
With lovely melodies, powerful acting and a stirring chorus so prominent that it almost has a leading role, Lost in the Stars ends with a deeply moving message of reconciliation and hope.
Maxwell Anderson, letter to Alan Paton, 15 March 1948: 'I hope I can convey to you, at so great a distance, something of the emotion with which I read Cry, the Beloved Country and which many Americans must feel now as they read it. For years I've wanted to write something which would state the position and perhaps illuminate the tragedy of our own negroes. Now that I've read your story I think you have said as much as can be said both for your country and for ours.'
Lost in the Stars opens at Artscape on 24 November for four performances. Bookings at Computicket. Ticket prices start at R100.
Lost in the Stars is primarily funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and also funded in part by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., New York, NY.
For further media enquiries, interviews or photographs, contact Lesley Liddle, Cape Town Opera, on 021 410 9820; 071 684 2839 or email .
Below are live recordings of the presentations by the Conductor, Director and Singers of Cape Town Opera's Lost in the Stars:
Africa's premiere opera company, Cape Town Opera, a non-profit organization, has thrilled audiences around the globe for the past decade, from its home soils in Southern Africa to countries including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Israel, the United States and Australia.
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