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SANTA'S STORY Returns to the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town, May 14-26

Esteemed opera diva Aviva Pelham, recounts her 95 year old mother's fascinating tale of survival through song in SANTA'S STORY which returns to the Fugard Studio Theatre in Cape Town by popular demand from 14 to 26 May 2013 for a limited season. The production has also been invited to Helsinki in October.

One-woman show SANTA'S STORY, an on-stage rendition of 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Santa Pelham's touching autobiography, captivated audiences at the Theatre on the Square in Sandton, early in 2013. The production enjoyed a sell-out season at the Fugard Studio Theatre in 2012. While the production, which is an evocative mix of storytelling and live music, is helmed by a particularly adept creative team - including accomplished local director Janice Honeyman, esteemed designers Mannie Manim and Dicky Longhurst, and gifted music arranger Matthew Reid - the solo lead of the show is none other than Santa Pelham's own daughter, multi award-winning, internationally-acclaimed opera singer Aviva Pelham. She is accompanied onstage by a vibrant Klezmer band that shifts through multiple genres, bringing this seasoned mother's intriguing tale to life through one of her most personally cherished mediums: song.

Starting in pre-war Germany where the Jewish Santa Pelham was born, the production recounts this remarkable woman's attempts to navigate life under Nazi oppression. The narrative follows her as she flees from this dictatorial state to Spain, where civil war rages, then on to even poorer conditions in an occupied France, and finally, by ship, to Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, where, under arranged circumstances, she marries a man she has never met - a decision that ultimately, saves her life. It is a tale of trials, tribulations and triumph, one that depicts deeply personal issues within a harrowing broader political context. To evoke a sense of place and culture as the story unravels, the gifted Aviva sings in multiple languages - German, Spanish, French, Yiddish, Hebrew and English - reflective of the different parts of Europe. But the show is far more than merely an account of one (now) elderly woman's distressing journey; rather, with a core focus on upliftment and perseverance, it carries moving universal messages of courage, tenacity and hope, and works to highlight issues - such as prejudice, intolerance, displacement and acceptance - that are likely to resonate with most. In essence, as Aviva emphasises, SANTA'S STORY is an evocative piece that, through poignant music, explores the possibility of pushing through the darkness to ultimately find strength, spirit and light again.

Aviva Pelham was born into an extremely musical family in Zimbabwe, her home was filled with music and every member of the family sang. In addition to Opera, Teaching and Performing qualifications, she obtained a Master's Degree from University of Cape Town. Since making her debut in the role of Norina from DON PASQUALE she performed extensively on local and international stages, television and radio. She has worked with numerous illustrious conductors including Janos Furst, Piero Gamba, Hubert Sudant, Victor Yampolsky and Reinhard Schwarz. Aviva dominated the stage as Violetta in LA TRAVIATA, Rosina in THE BARBER OF SEVILLE and was equally at home as Musetta in LA BOHEME, Susanna in THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, Gilda in RIGOLETTO, Marcellina in FIDELIO, Adina in L'ELISIR D'AMORE, Zerlina in DON GIOVANNI and Oscar in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA. In addition, she has starred in the leading roles in operettas including DIE FLEDERMAUS, LA BELLE HELENE, LA PERICHOLE, NIGHT IN VENICE, THE STUDENT PRINCE, THE GREAT WALTZ, THE MERRY WIDOW as well as countless musicals such as MY FAIR LADY, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, THE KING AND I, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, MAN OF LA MANCHA, KISS ME KATE, INTO THE WOODS and KISMET, notching up over two thousand performances and delighting audiences all over the world. During her illustrious career, Aviva has been recognised with many awards which include several Vita Awards, the Nederburg Opera Prize, the Fred Dalberg Award, The Bell'Arte Award and the Department of Arts and Culture Merit Award for her outstanding contribution to the Arts and the International Rotary Paul Harris Award. Aviva lectures part-time at UCT Opera School and is passionate about diverse outreach projects and mentoring young talent. She was nominated for a Fleur du Cap Theatre Award this year in the category Best Performance by an Actress in Music Theatre for her performance in SANTA'S STORY.

SANTA'S STORY runs Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm and on Sunday at 3pm at the Fugard Theatre in Caledon Street, Cape Town. There are no performances on Fridays. Tickets cost R130 to R150 per person through Computicket or the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554. Generous discounts are available for the Friends of the Fugard.

Photo Credit: Jesse Kramer

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