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Film Adaptations Of Opera Classics w/ Black Casts Courtesy Of South Africa's Isango Ensemble

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 23, 2013 at 2:37PM

The team behind u-Carmen eKhayelitsha - a modern remake of Georges Bizet's classic 1875 opera Carmen, shot entirely in Xhosa (one of South Africa's official languages), with an all-black South African cast, combining both music from the original opera with traditional music - are planning on doing a similar thing with Giacomo Puccini’s classic 1896 opera, La Boheme.
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Noye’s Fludde
Noye’s Fludde

The team behind u-Carmen eKhayelitsha - a modern remake of Georges Bizet's classic 1875 opera Carmen, shot entirely in Xhosa (one of South Africa's official languages), with an all-black South African cast, combining both music from the original opera with traditional music - are planning on doing a similar thing with Giacomo Puccini’s classic 1896 opera, La Boheme.

But first, their next completed film, a re-imagining another operatic work, this time, Benjamin Britten’s 1957 piece, Noye’s Fludde, will make its World Premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema section at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Director Mark Dornford-May (who made his feature film debut with U-Carmen) wrapped production on what was originally titled Unogumbe, but will retain the title of Britten's original opera, which is a medieval retelling of the Noah's Ark story.

The film stars Pauline Malefane, who also starred in u-Carmen (and who will also star in the upcoming La Boheme adaptation), playing the lead role, updated to "Mrs Noah," in a work that's described as a complete reworking of Britten's original opera piece.

Dornford-May plans to shoot the La Boheme  film adaptation in Khayelitsha Township near Cape Town (where u-Carmen was also shot) later this year, for a 2013 bow.

The film is being produced under the relatively newly-formed F&ME/Isango banner; F&ME chairman is 3-time Academy Award nominee and Tony Award winning director Stephen Daldry, who will also executive produce the project.

u-Carmen eKhayelitsh won critical acclaim when it received the Golden Bear at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival.

With this new partnership between F&ME and Isango, a slate of similar South Africa-set film adaptations of known works of opera are expected, in addition to the upcoming 2: Noye’s Fludde, which premieres at TIFF next month, and La Boheme (although it may not be called that when the film is done), going into production later this year.

Unitel Group’s Unitel Classica label has officially come onboarded to handle world sales for Noye’s Fludde, so let's hope it gets picked up for a Stateside release. Or that, at least, a Stateside film festival is able to add the film to its slate in the coming year.

By the way, u-Carmen eKhayelitsh is available here in the USA on home video. 

Below you'll find 2 trailers: the first for u-Carmen, and the second for Noye’s Fludde.

This article is related to: Pauline Malefane


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