Mandela Trilogy, Wales Millennium Centre

August 26, 2016 by

Cape Town Opera’s 10 year partnership with the Wales Millennium Centre is celebrated with the Mandela Trilogy. Told in three acts from Mandela’s tribal beginnings, his exuberant youth leading to his 27 year imprisonment and his long awaited release; we were encompassed by the magnitude of a man whose fight for universal freedom took him on the biggest sacrifice of all; his own freedom. Mandela wasn’t a perfect man he would often say that himself but his perfect imperfections made him a man who surpassed all expectations and was indeed the only man fully equipped to challenge the opposition even from prison, which would eventually bring along the peace talks with F. W. de Klerk and the end of apartheid.



I, like many others marvelled in the extraordinary man who always had a united South Africa in the forefront of his mind even when his life imprisonment seemed like that road to freedom would be impossible. Having studied South Africa and apartheid as part of my Modern History and Politics degree I was always in awe of where his strength and pride came from; Act 1 let us into the foundations of the man Mandela became and the pride he had in knowing his worth and the worth of his people. The Thembu tribe gave him his strength to be a leader and eventually the leader of a nation. The authenticity of tribal customs gave an accurate portrayal of how it would have been for Mandela passing from boy to man and it was great to hear the traditional Xhosa initiation songs that were heart lifting and soul stirring.


As we moved into Act 2 it was great to see that despite the injustice and oppression black South Africans faced they found solace and joy in the swing and jazz era of the 40s descending on Sophiatown. Dolly, played by Candida Mosoma,  was the siren of the Jig Club and caught the attention of Mandela, much to the dismay of his long suffering wife Evelyn. However, both women could not compete with Mandela’s vision of ‘winning hearts and minds’ until Winnie came along who never sought to compete with Mandela’s vision but shared it, she would become the formidable Winnie Mandela.



The musical fusion of jazz, soul and opera was spine-tingling and beautiful. You could feel the palpable energy and heavy emotions throughout every lyric and in every chord struck; reaching to the rousing climax of Mandela’s speech upon leaving prison. A special mention has to be given to Peace R. Nzirawa whose dulcet baritone tones swept over the audience transfixed and roused in ‘Freedom in our Time’.


Act 3 took us to the darkest times of Mandela’s incarceration and the heart-breaking pain of what time and distance can create. Mandela receives news of his son and mother’s death and laments over not being there for his family; only this tragedy could momentarily break Mandela’s strength. I believe however that the tragedies he experienced made him more determined and strong in his mission to prove that his sacrifices had been worth it. Aubrey Lodewyk gave a realistic portrayal of the anguish that must have been felt by Mandela at the time.



I believe that this story is not just a tale of history but that the fight for freedom is ever present and at risk and we must take forward Mandela’s lifelong commitment to continue the walk to freedom.


Mandela always looked ahead at the bigger picture and once said ‘For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others’; that is exactly the responsibility that we must bear and carry forward not just as a mere gesture but to universally carry the cross and make sacrifices like Mandela’s worth every second.



Music by Peter Louis van Dijk & Mike Campbell
Written and directed by Michael Williams

The Mandela Trilogy continues its run until 27th August at Wales Millennium Centre


Cape Town Opera’s Michael Williams:

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