Albert Horne, Chorus Master and Music Assistant of Cape Town Opera, chats about celebrating the company's 15th anniversary by restaging its highly acclaimed production of Show Boat.
Eugene Yiga: Without giving too much away, what is Show Boat about?
Albert Horne: Show Boat is a musical of the old American South, rich with nostalgia, humour, love stories and well-loved melodies. As a musical, Show Boat has all the flourish and glamour of the old American-style big family musical, but the content of something that goes much deeper - it is essentially a love story, but there's also an underlying theme of racial prejudice. It is a natural fit for the talented voices of the Cape Town Opera.
EY: Since its South African premiere in 2005, this production has enjoyed several triumphant seasons in Norway, Sweden, Germany, and France. Why do you think it's done so well?
AH: The combination of the Cape Town Opera Chorus' gutsy rendition of Ol' Man River, Janice Honeyman's witty and glamorous production, the over 100 period costumes by Birrie le Roux, Timothy le Roux's energetic choreography and the stylish set by Johan Engels has made the Cape Town Opera's production of Show Boat a winner wherever it tours. Few other musicals reflect the situation of South Africa´s past better than Show Boat and this musical really shows through its enormous talent the bright future ahead for South African performers.
EY: Could you tell us what it's been like to work with the performers?
AH: It is always a joy to work with such acclaimed and talented singers, actors and dancers, and it makes my job as the conductor much easier. As always, we are also very lucky to have the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra playing for the production, which is the final icing on the cake. They capture the essence and style of the music beautifully and really support the drama on stage.
EY: How relevant do you think opera is to the generation of today?
AH: As long as respect for the operatic and classical art forms is nurtured in the younger generation, both at home and at school, young people will realise that the operatic stories actually remain relevant. One has to appreciate how the music portrays the emotion of what's happening on stage and how the orchestra carries the vocal performers through the story. Once you understand that, then it all makes sense. The stories are, after all, everyday stories with all the elements of drama, tragedy, love, hope all the emotions which play out in our daily lives.
EY: You've been involved in numerous Cape Town Opera productions over the years. What are some of your personal highlights?
AH: My biggest highlight must be when the Cape Town Opera Chorus was invited to perform with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of the legendary conductor Sir Simon Rattle, at the Philharmonie in Berlin last year. It was such an incredible experience - to work with, arguably, the best orchestra and conductor in the world, in the best concert hall in Europe. The audience and critical responses were immense and we will always treasure this experience.
EY: And what was it like to win the prestigious Chorus of the Year at the International Opera Awards in London last year?
AH: What an amazing honour. It is always tricky to determine where we stand in the operatic world, being so far away from the rest of Europe and the US, but winning this award made us realise that we are on the right track. It was such a privilege to be nominated alongside the opera choruses of the Helikon Opera in Moscow, the Netherlands Opera Chorus, and the Bayreuth Festival Chorus. Winning this award in 2013 proves that we have immense vocal talent in this country and that we should be proud of who we are, and continue to strive to take over the international arts world.
Eugene graduated from the University of Cape Town with distinctions in financial accounting and classical piano. He then spent over two-and-half years working in branding and communications at two of South Africa's top market research companies. Eugene also spent over three-and-a-half years at an eLearning start-up, all while building his business as an award-winning writer.
Visit www.eugeneyiga.com, follow @eugeneyiga on Twitter, or email moc.agiyenegue@olleh to say, um, hello.
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