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Minnesota Orch to tour South Africa;
Singer's Husband steps in to sing ailing tenor's role
It’s “This Week in Classical Music”; an update on what’s happening in the classical music world; I’m Randy Kinkel.
Soon, the Minnesota Orchestra will tour South Africa — becoming the first professional US Orchestra to do so. But first, South Africa came to Minnesota.
Over two days at Orchestra Hall, the orchestra celebrated the 100th birthday of the late Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s most famous statesman and freedom fighter, with speeches and song. Those songs ran the gamut from traditional to modern, from symphonies to protest anthems.
Saturday evening’s concert paired Beethoven’s beloved Ninth Symphony, including its famous choral finale, “Ode to Joy,” with the world premiere of “Harmonia Ubuntu,” by South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen, which features a soprano singing text from Mandela’s speeches and writings.
"Ubunto" is a philosophy that says "my humanity is tied to your humanity," said Ndodana-Breen, who flew to Minnesota for the premiere. "It teaches people to reinforce each other's individual dignity and ... to live together in a form of harmony.
"It's a very simple concept, but I think we live in times where it's very trying to implement."
the orchestra’s two-week, five-city tour includes an Aug. 17 concert in Soweto, “the spiritual home” of the anti-apartheid struggle. Between playing in city halls and churches, the musicians will work with and rehearse alongside young musicians, an experience they raved about during the orchestra’s historic trip to Cuba in 2015.
“I never thought five years after my father has passed away he would be celebrated thousands of miles away in Minnesota,” said Makaziwe Mandela, Mandela’s eldest daughter.
“Music became a weapon against apartheid,” she said. Songs helped tell her father’s story, educating young people about the anti-apartheid movement.
Opera singer Charles Castronovo saved a performance of La Boheme at the Royal Opera House starring his wife Ekaterina Siurina, when he stepped in mid-show to sing the role of her lover.
Siurina was playing the lead role of Mimi, alongside Atalla Ayan as her lover Rodolfo.
When a problem with Ayan’s voice forced him to stop singing, Castronovo, who had been watching from the audience, stood in and sang the role at the side of the stage, while Ayan acted it.
Audience members praised Castronovo for making it a “magical” and “sensationally romantic” evening: Twitter user Nicky Enderby said: “It’s the type of thing you can’t make up. Wonderful performance of La Boheme…with the amazing Charles Castronovo (Mimi’s real life husband) standing in to sing Rodolfo at the interval!”
A spokesman for the Royal Opera House said: “During Friday evening’s performance of Puccini’s La Boheme, tenor Atalla Ayan, singing the role of Rodolfo, developed vocal difficulties in Act II.
“In the interval Atalla decided he was no longer able to carry on singing and the very rare challenge of finding a replacement mid-performance suddenly arose. We were pleased and fortunate that Charles Castronovo was attending the performance as an audience member, supporting his wife Ekaterina Siurina, who was singing the role of Mimi. We were incredibly grateful that Charles quickly agreed to step in and sing the second half of the performance from the side of the stage, while Atalla walked the role in costume.
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