I have just received a press release which reveals that Big Wig Opera has partnered with the South African National Tuberculosis Association (SANTA) for its upcoming production of Puccini’s opera, La Bohème, at the end of May.
La Bohème, made its world première in 1896, and it is the story of four young, starving artists and their love affairs. Director Elizabeth Lombard sets the production in modern-day South Africa. The story is as relevant today as it was 119 years ago.
The La Bohème cast is: Rodolfo, a poet: Stéfan Louw (tenor), Mimi, a seamstress: Natalie Dickson (soprano), Marcello, a painter: Aubrey Lodewyk (baritone), Musetta, a singer: Magdalene Minnaar (soprano), Schaunard, a musician: Siyabulela Tofile (baritone) *debut performance and Colline, a philosopher: Otto Maidi (bass).
In an attempt to be true to its motto ‘Real Opera for Real People’ Big Wig Opera will be telling this very romantic story in true South African style: a poet, a painter, a musician and a philosopher live in a small flat in the city of Johannesburg. They are all out of work and struggling to make ends meet. One of the four friends, the poet, meets his neighbour, a young girl who works as a seamstress at a nearby factory when she knocks on the door asking for help to light her candle because she has no matches left. The poet falls in love her instantaneously but is worried about her because she seems visibly ill. For some time their love blossoms but soon the poet breaks up with the seamstress whose coughing becomes more violent as time passes He tells his friends that he broke up with her to protect the love of his life; he is too poor to take her to the doctor and he was hoping that ending their relationship would help her find a wealthy man that can take care of her. Some months later they find the seamstress in the street, severely weakened by her illness, and take her to their flat. One of their female friends, a singer who has a rich and much older boyfriend, sold her earrings to pay for medicine but the treatment arrives too late. The seamstress dies from illness known today as tuberculosis (TB).
“Through partnering with SANTA we at Big Wig Opera believe we can help spread awareness of TB which in 2010 caused more than 60,000 deaths in the country,” says Lombard.
According to SANTA chief executive officer Koma Ramontja, TB remains the leading cause of death in South Africa. Further research estimates that 430,000 people (out of 1.7 million) who died in 2011 from HIV related causes also had TB. “When we were approached by Big Wig Opera we were so excited,” says Ramontja. “This story, although almost 120 years old, could just as well be the story of many South Africans out there. We look forward to collaborating with Big Wig Opera in a bid to spread awareness about the disease, prevention thereof and how it can be treated.”
Tickets for La Bohème are already on sale at R190, R250 and R350. There are two performances, Friday night 22 May at 20:00 and Sunday afternoon 24 May at 15:00. To show your support call 0861 670 670 or visit http://www.bigwigopera.com to reserve your seats.