The Last Anniversary takes on two-city SA tour

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The cast of The Last Anniversary - Back row Themi Venturas, Flora Eszter Sarlos and Bertrand Festas. Front row Mdu Mtshali and Vusi Makhanya. Picture by Clement Barthel
The cast of The Last Anniversary – Back row Themi Venturas, Flora Eszter Sarlos and Bertrand Festas. Front row Mdu Mtshali and Vusi Makhanya. Picture by Clement Barthel

An innovative brand new international operatic drama which is the culmination of creative input from five countries will tour two South African cities this October.

Featuring an original score described as an eclectic combination of beautiful operatic music, The Last Anniversary includes a selection of new fusion-style African and European jazz music embedded in a drama that looks at the racial profiling encountered by an African traveller stuck in an airport upon arrival in Europe. Caught in the administrative and judicial system, arrested and questioned, he remembers his ancestors and the price they had to pay for liberty.

The Last Anniversary is the creative component of the Hopes & Memories project, which is co-funded by the European Union and respective partners. Hopes & Memories has over the past two years administered on-going projects between performing arts groups in South Africa, France, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

This production is one of the projects benefiting from Nedbank’s additional contribution of R250 000 to arts and culture projects across the country this year. This is in celebration of the Arts & Culture Trust and South Africa’s 20-years of democracy.

“We are delighted to be in a position to sponsor the opening of the production at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg and extend a sincere word of thanks to the Nedbank Arts Affinity clients who have enabled ACT to support numerous important works, such as the Last Anniversary, over the past twenty years,” says ACT Chief Executive Officer, Pieter Jacobs on the project.

After much experimentation and discovery by the partners in residencies throughout the five countries the drama, inspired by the Langston Hughes and Jan Meyerowitz’s 1948 composition The Barrier, explores the issue of fundamental human rights, the history of migration and of discrimination and racial profiling.

This drama includes scenes from the original opera and new music created especially by project managing director Johan Farjot, celebrated jazz saxophonist from France Raphael Imbert (who worked extensively with Zim Ngqawana), and South African – based Mozambican bass player and traditional instrumentalist Ildo Nandja.

Co-artistic directors Laurent Festas of France and Themi Venturas of South Africa  teamed up to create the dramaturgy of The Last Anniversary and assembled a cast drawn from all five countries, which includes opera singers, actor, dancers, musicians and a highly skilled production team.

The cast is an ensemble made up of Durban dancers Vusi Makhanya and Mdu Mtshali from South Africa, Caroline Lemiere, Ikki Hoshino and Bertrand Festas from Euroculture en Pays Gentiane in France and Ezther Sarlos from Zero Ballet in Hungary Thabang Edward Phiri from Gauteng and Kelebogile Besong (nee Boikanyo) team up with Till Fechner to provide the operatic voices in the piece.

After its extensive European tour The Last Anniversary can be seen in South Africa at the Stable Theatre in Durban on 23 & 24 October and at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg from 30 Oct – 2 Nov. Bookings can be made at Computicket.

Since the dawn of democracy, Nedbank has invested more than R15 million towards arts and cultural development and preservation across the country.   Nedbank’s Arts Affinity Programme has contributed substantially to the R21 million the Trust disbursed to more than 800 arts, culture and heritage projects over the past 20 years.

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