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U-Carmen eKhayelisha previewed on Radio 3’s CD Review programme

U-Carmen eKhayelisha previewed on Radio 3’s CD Review programme

Radio 3’s CD Review programme, presented by Andrew McGregor, previewed the beautiful soundtrack to U-Carmen eKhayelisha on Saturday 1st April in their Hot Off The Press section. You can ‘listen again’ to the programme online at bbc.co.uk/radio3/cdreview. Please go to www.u-carmen.co.uk for more details of the film and where you can see it. The soundtrack is available on Warner Classics in the UK and Ireland. For the rest of the world, please see www.milanrecords.com. U-Carmen eKhayelitsha is a feature film sung and spoken in Xhosa, one of South Africa’s eleven official languages. Based on Bizet’s opera Carmen, U-Carmen eKhayelitsha was shot in April/May 2004 in the township of Khayelitsha, near Cape Town, home to half a million people. The story of Carmen has over the years inspired a diversity of interpretations in film and theatre all over the world. Director Mark Dornford-May's adaptation is an impressive and entertaining film that relocates this tale of the love affair between Carmen and Don José in Khayelitsha, a shantytown in South Africa against the backdrop of the hardship suffered by those who live in it. Framed within an atmospherical environment of gangsters and shebeens this interpretation is a celebration of South African dramatic art at its best. U-Carmen eKhayelitsha had its South African premiere in Khayelitsha in March 2005 in the very same building in which the last scene of the film is shot. Marking a significant change in the usual distribution, a month long roll out in the same venue followed, with audiences of 1500 people per day coming to see the film, and an extra screening time per day added in the last week. U-Carmen eKhayelitsha won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival. The Khayelitsha born opera singer Pauline Malefane is superb in the title role of the sensuous and independent cigarette seller supported by an excellent cast from the acclaimed South African lyric theatre company Dimpho Di Kopane. ABOUT THE FILM Georges Bizet’s Carmen first premiered in Paris on 3 March, 1875 and has reputedly since become the most performed opera in the world. Originally based on Prosper Mérimée’s novella and adapted into a libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, Carmen was set in a slum area of Seville and tells a visceral tale of love, jealousy, revenge, desire and madness. Carmen deals with the bleaker side of human nature, all the while celebrating its invincible spirit. It is this thrilling combination, along with its extraordinary music that has generated its timeless appeal. Its characters are complex: Carmen is far more than the stereotypical ‘femme fatale’ – she is a sensual independent woman whose fierce determination and indomitable spirit, even in the face of death, make her a compelling figure and an icon in the popular imagination. The narrative traces the destruction of a woman who cannot and will not become what men want her to be and culminates in one of the most gripping and tragic finales of all time. Converting grand opera into an entirely different medium and language was a daunting task. The co-writers and translators Mark Dornford-May, Andiswa Kedama and Pauline Malefane however, embraced this challenge with enthusiastic zest. Their collaborative efforts resulted in a screenplay that manages to remain remarkably faithful to the original plot and yet presents an authentic slice of township life. U-Carmen eKhayelitsha relies on three components: the cast, the context and the music. The core cast members are all from Dimpho Di Kopane (DDK), an ensemble lyric theatre company that has achieved tremendous international acclaim. The 40 member company was started in 2000 through an unprecedented recruitment process. Two thousand auditions were held in townships throughout South Africa. Most of the performers had never previously been inside a theatre let alone on a stage or in front of a camera. The diversity of DDK’s cultures, races and experiences enables it to create work of the highest calibre. It is their combined efforts and collective focus which creates a unique environment in which each member of the company plays an integral part. The film is set in present day Khayelitsha, one of South Africa’s largest townships, situated approximately 20km outside of Cape Town. The dynamic energy and heat of Khayelitsha creates an authentic, graphic and textured aesthetic for the unfolding of the story. Indeed, the vibrant structures, and the unique qualities of the township, provide a spectacular backdrop for the pulsating rhythms and seductively sinuous melodies that made Bizet’s Carmen so popular. Bizet’s music, translated and sung in Xhosa, mixed with traditional song, gives the film a thrilling synthesis of Xhosa culture and European opera. A dynamic orchestra of young South Africans was assembled especially to record it. U-Carmen eKhayelitsha contrasts love and obsession, duty and desire, ultimately a work that addresses universal themes in a particular cultural context. ABOUT DDK Dimpho Di Kopane is a lyric theatre company consisting of forty fantastically talented South African actors and singers. The name Dimpho Di Kopane means "combined talents" in Sotho, aptly describing the way in which the company works, relying on every company member's unique skills as well as their collective focus and energy to create work of the highest caliber. DDK began in late 2000 when Mark Dornford-May and Charles Hazlewood, then Artistic and Music Directors of Broomhill Opera in London, were asked to form an ensemble company in Cape Town. They began recruiting performers through an unprecedented audition process in which over two thousand auditions were held throughout rural and urban South Africa. In its first four years, Dimpho Di Kopane has achieved phenomenal success. In 2001 Carmen and Yiimimangaliso The Mysteries transferred to Wilton’s Music Hall in London where both productions sold out within 24 hours of opening, had to be extended due to demand for tickets and were listed as the most important music and theatre events in London. “From now on this should be the Carmen by which others are measured.” The Observer, London “I cannot recommend strongly enough that you see this show, a kind of electric shock therapy that you would be lucky to find elsewhere” The Times, London The company then went on tour to the US, Australia, Canada, Turkey and the UK including a hugely successful West End run and a 6 week residency in New York City with four stage productions: Carmen, Yiimimangaliso, Ibali Lootsotsi The Beggars’ Opera and their newest stage production Ikumkanikazi Yekhephu The Snow Queen. “A repertory company of vibrantly skilled actor-singer-dancers…sheer theatrical and musical pleasure… Don’t miss any of them.” The New York Times In April and May 2004, in association with Spier Films and Nando’s, DDK made their first feature film U-Carmen eKhayelitsha.

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