Review: SHORTS – A FESTIVAL OF POCKET OPERAS at Artscape Arena Offers Bite-Sized Operatic Treats

This versatile programme runs from 11 to 21 April 2024.

By: Apr. 14, 2024
Review: SHORTS – A FESTIVAL OF POCKET OPERAS at Artscape Arena Offers Bite-Sized Operatic Treats
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While there are three mini-operas within the SHORTS programme, this reviews centres around two of them: LA VOIX HUMANE and THE IMPRESARIO.

Over the last couple of years, I have been lucky enough to attend various operas staged in Cape Town. They are magnificent: grand and opulent – but they usually have short, sold-out runs and can be on the pricier side, which might make it difficult for newbies to dabble in opera-going. Thus, when I heard that I was to review, SHORTS – A FESTIVAL OF POCKET OPERAS, presented by Cape Town Opera, it seemed the perfect opportunity to introduce an opera-virgin friend of mine to the world of arias, vibrato, and supertitles. And indeed it was: the festival is a treat for both new and seasoned patrons.


LA VOIX HUMAINE, (“THE HUMAN VOICE”) is a one-woman opera, composed in 1958 by Francis Poulenc. With a running time of 45 minutes, this jarring piece, which is, in turn, based on Jean Cocteau’s 1950s play, hones in on the deterioration of a woman who is suffering from dementia. Janelle Visagie artfully captures the desperation, helplessness, and devastation of the loss of perhaps the most personal thing of all: one’s memories. Visagie’s ability to maintain her crystal-clear soprano while slumped over, kneeling on the ground, or even lying flat on her back had me flawed.

While this opera is certainly disturbing, it is creatively staged and keeps the audience captivated by requiring the audience to piece together what is fiction and what is reality in the world the Woman.I also thought Pluto Panoussis’ audiovisual curation to be particularly effective: the static and chaos of the now-outdated technology emphasises the jumbled mind of our unreliable trilling narrator. Magdalene Minaar’s innovative direction shines through in this piece.

Review: SHORTS – A FESTIVAL OF POCKET OPERAS at Artscape Arena Offers Bite-Sized Operatic Treats


THE IMPRESARIO had me in stitches from start and to finish – I adored every second of this 55-minute show. This comic opera, composed by Mozart in 1786 has been translated into English, modernised, and turned into a play with both dialogue and opera. It tells the hilarious tale of an impresario, Mr Scruples, who yearns to leave the theatre to move to his family’s farm. Dean de Klerk is wonderful in this speaking role – often the only sensible character in a world of divas and wannabes.

Speaking of: the divas and wannabes are fantastic in their own right! Alida Scheepers and Dineo Bokala, as rival divas, are gorgeous in their roles. One marvels at their vocals while guffawing at their comedic timing.

The same can be said of the 'wannabes': Lonwabo Mose as Bluff, Scruples’ right-hand man, who yearns to take to the stage is deliciously funny and wows with his superb baritone. Mongezi Mosoaka, a young investor who dreams of becoming an impresario himself, is charming, with fantastic stage presence and a voice to match. I loved each of these performers and what they brought to this fun, fresh, vibrant piece. It is meta, witty and pokes fun at the opera industry in the best way. The only critique I have is that sometimes the artists speak too fast: I wanted to savour every word!

I recommend booking for all three pieces (if you can) to get the full experience of the  delightful operatic  delicacy that is SHORTS – A FESTIVAL OF POCKET OPERAS.

SHORTS – A FESTIVAL OF POCKET OPERAS runs the Artscape Arena from 11 to 21 April 2024. Tickets are available via Webtickets and range between R150 and R280.


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