BWW Special Feature: The Fugard Launches 2017 Bioscope Season with NT Live's Thrilling THE THREEPENNY OPERA
Cape Town was at its finest this past Sunday when the Fugard Theatre hosted a reception in their breathtaking rooftop bar to announce the programme of The 2017 Fugard Bioscope World Arts Cinema Season.
With Table Mountain serving as a spectacular backdrop, the resident director and general manager of the theatre, Greg Karvellas, welcomed everyone to a screening of The National Theatre's production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's THE THREEPENNY OPERA, just one of the productions that will screen almost weekly at the popular theatre venue located in the heart of District Six.
Now in its sixth year, the Fugard Bioscope seasons have become something of a phenomenon in the Mother City - with six times as many screenings of the world's best theatre, opera and ballet productions as its initial season of eight titles. As usual, The Fugard will screen productions from The Royal Opera House, The Royal Ballet, The Bolshoi Ballet and The National Theatre at 11:00 on Sunday mornings on a high definition cinema screen in 7.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. Showings of productions by the Salzburg Festival Opera, The Globe and The Royal Shakespeare Company will augment this year's programme.
In his speech, Karvallas emphasised the unique experience of viewing these screenings in a theatre, where audiences can spend time in the foyer of the theatre before and after the screenings, as well as during the intervals that many of the screenings include. Of the programme itself, he said:
There are some wonderful new productions as part of The National Theatre Live series, such as NO MAN'S LAND featuring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. The NT's staging of AMADEUS, Peter Shaffer's iconic play about Mozart, music, power and jealousy, stars Lucian Msamati of LUTHER and GAME OF THRONES fame. There's also the NT Live production of HEDDA GABLER, directed by Tony Award-winning director Ivo Van Hove and featuring Ruth Wilson. Audiences will be able to see the work of Salzburg Festival Opera with Beethoven's FIDELIO and CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, which brought record attendances to the Salzburg Easter Festival.
Another factor that makes the Fugard Theatre screenings unique is that they run in tandem with the theatre's live in-house productions. This past Sunday, for instance, one could have nipped out for lunch in the city following THE THREEPENNY OPERA (a thrilling production adapted by Simon Stephens and directed by Rufus Norris, with most remarkable performances from Rory Kinnear, Rosalie Craig and Nick Holder) returned to catch the 16:00 performance of David Kramer's DISTRICT SIX - KANALA, which runs at The Fugard until 26 February. Where else in the country could audiences catch such a potent double bill of musical theatre performances along with the best that the City Bowl of Cape Town has on offer?
Also on offer this season are the Royal Shakespeare Company's productions of William Shakespeare's rarely performed romance, CYMBELINE, and the same playwright's KING LEAR, starring Anthony Sher. More Elizabethan drama is on offer in The Globe's productions of RICHARD II, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE and MEASURE FOR MEASURE.
Balletomanes can revel in classics from the Bolshoi Ballet such as SWAN LAKE and SLEEPING BEAUTY, with that company's THE GOLDEN AGE - a vibrant and passionate love story set during the roaring twenties - coming up in February. Also to be seen are The Royal Ballet's productions of George Balanchine's JEWELS, inspired by the sparkle of emeralds, rubies and diamonds, and Wayne McGregor's WOOLF WORKS, a triptych based on the works of Virginia Woolf.
Opera lovers will be able to join in authoritatively on global conversations about the controversial casting of Jonas Kaufmann in The Royal Opera House production of OTELLO, which also forms part of the current season. Although Kaufmann did not play the role in blackface, there was an outcry of his casting in the role of a persecuted black man. One wonders why that same debate was not picked up in that same company's casting of Ermonela Jaho as Cio-Cio-San in the Japanese set MADAMA BUTTERFLY, a tale that finds its context in the dark histories of colonialism and cultural assimilation. Whatever one's views may be, these screenings will allow local audiences to reflect on these issues and consider their relevance in the context of opera production in South Africa. What an opportunity this is, given the current debates around transformation in this country at present!
Tickets for the Bioscope screenings cost R100 and can be booked through Computicket, online, by phone on 0861 915 8000 or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet. Patrons can also make bookings at The Fugard Theatre's box office on 021 461 4554. With limited seating available, advance bookings are highly recommended. The full schedule can be found on The Fugard Theatre's website.