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Events Macbeth


Third World Bunfight

Sept 23–25 2016

Runtime TBA

Cost TBA

Philadelphia Film Center

Wheelchair Accessible

DescriptionAbout the ArtistsInterviewFurther ReadingEngage the Art Events

“I asked him to envisage Verdi’s original score as a monolithic mid-19th century cathedral, erected in the Congolese forests during the colonial era. Since then it has been abandoned . . . what does it look and sound like now?” Brett Bailey

‘There can be no denying the power and originality of this astonishing appropriation of Verdi’s Macbeth . . . one comes away chilled and thrilled.” Telegraph, UK

12 Nobulumko Mngxekeza as Lady Macbeth - photo by Nicky Newman

Credit: Nicky Newman

In a country of multinational double-dealings, ethnic conflict, ruthless militia, blood minerals, and glittering Chinese imports, a warlord, General Macbeth, and his ambitious wife murder the king and unleash atrocities on the crumbling province that they seize. Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Macbeth uses the Verdi opera (condensed to 100 minutes and infused with African rhythms) to bring themes of greed, tyranny, and corruption in postcolonial Africa to the stage.

In Italian with English surtitles.

Conceived, Designed & Directed by Brett Bailey Music Fabrizio Cassol, adapted from Verdi’s Macbeth Orchestra Opera Philadelphia Orchestra Choreographer Natalie Fisher Macbeth Owen Metsileng Lady Macbeth Nobulumko Mngxekeza Banquo Otto Maidi Chorus Sandile Kamle, Jacqueline Manciya, Monde Masimini, Lunga Halam, Bulelani Madondile, Philisa Sibeko, Thomakazi Holland Orchestration performed by Opera Philadelphia Orchestra

Major support for the co-presentation of Macbeth has been provided to FringeArts by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and to Opera Philadelphia by the William Penn Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

$48 general / $33.60 member

Sun, 9/23 at 2pm: $20 dress rehearsal


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Hotel Sponsor

Sonesta Hotel

Festival Star Producers
Al and Nancy Hirsig

Festival Co-Producers
Barbara and Stephen Gold
Lynne and Bert Strieb

About the Artists

Credit: Pascal Gely

Brett Bailey, Credit: Pascal Gely

Brett Bailey (director) is a playwright, designer, play director, festival curator and the artistic director of Third World Bunfight. He has worked throughout South Africa, in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Haiti, the UK, and Europe. His acclaimed iconoclastic dramas, which interrogate the dynamics of the post-colonial world, include BIG DADA, IPI ZOMBI?, iMUMBO JUMBO and ORFEUS. His performance installations include BLOOD DIAMONDS: TERMINAL and EXHIBIT B. at the Prague Quadrennial (2007).

Fabrizio Cassol (music) is a composer and saxophonist with the group Aka Moon. His varied career has seen him work with world-famous choreographers including Alain Platel at Ballets C de la B, and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker; with composer Philippe Boesmans and opera director Luc Boesmans; and with the theatre company tg STAN. Since 2012, he has been an artist-in-residence at the Foundation Royaumont Abbey near Paris.

Owen Metsileng (Macbeth) was born in 1987 in a village called Manamakgotha in Rustenburg, South Africa. He comes from a musical family and started singing at an early age in church and school choirs. Owen was a member of the Black Tie Ensemble from 2006 to 2008 and joined the Cape Town Opera Studio in 2010. For Cape Town Opera he has sung Le Dancaïre in Carmen and Barone Douphol in La Traviata. He also sang the role of Marcello in La Bohème for CTO, as well as Jake in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess on a UK Tour.

Credit: Nicky Newman

Credit: Nicky Newman

Nobulumko Mngxekeza (Lady Macbeth), born in Queenstown, was introduced to music when she joined her high school choir at Kwa-Komani High. In her young career she has performed in Carmen as Micaella, as Bess in Porgy and Bess, as Pamina in Der Zaubeflute, as Anna in Nabucco—as well in Rusalko and I’ll Mulatto. Nobulumko has worked for Isango Ensemble where she performed in Impempe Yomlingo (The Magic Flute), Abanxaxhi (La Boheme), Aesop’s Fables and Ragged Trouser Philanthropist.

Otto Maidi (Banquo) began singing at a tender age of eight in his church’s Sunday school and his school. In 1996 Otto joined the Pretoria State Theatre Chorus and the Pro Musica Opera Chorus. He performed the following: Sacristan in Tosca, Bonzo in Madam Butterfly, Colline in La Boheme, Peter in Hansel and Gretel, Crown in Porgy & Bess, Olin Blitch in Susannah, Ramfis in Aida, Vodnick in Rusalka, Dulcamara in L’Elisir d’amore and a highly acclaimed Joe in Show Boat. Otto sang with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, the Turtle Creek Chorale (Dallas, Texas) as well as the Meadows Symphony Orchestra.

Interview with Brett Bailey

FringeArts: When did you connect the work to the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

Brett Bailey: My research into the horrors of the war in the eastern DRC began in 2008, when a xenophobic crisis ripped through South Africa. Tens of thousands of Congolese immigrants and refugees were in fear of their lives. During research into the atrocities committed in what was the Congo Free State under the Belgian colonial administration for another of my works, Exhibit B, I became aware of the continuum of brutal exploitation and plunder that has blighted the region from then until now. Millions of lives have become no more than collateral damage in a ruthless quest for power and profit—brutality on which the consumer world is dependent. I wanted to shine a light on this “invisible” nightmare, and I wanted to remake Macbeth: the two dovetailed.

FringeArts: What attracted you to doing an opera?

MACBETH (child soldier) - photo by BRETT BAILEY & MORNE VAN ZYL

Credit: Morne van Zyl

Brett Bailey: The “rigidity” of the form wasn’t really an issue. I went at it with a sharp machete: chopping out sections of the opera, juggling scenes and musical pieces, editing it into the piece I wanted to make. The music and the singing voice carry the emotions, the meaning and the drama in opera. It’s a very firm foundation from which to work. For me music like this conjures up images and emotions: it allows me to paint a series of scenes to tell the story. It is very liberating.

FringeArts: What kind of conversations did you have with the arranger as he arranged the opera?

Brett Bailey: Fabrizio Cassol, who adapted and rearranged Verdi’s opera, is a Belgian composer and a jazz musician with extensive experience in theater and in African music. He was the perfect fit for Macbeth. I gave him an edited down version of the opera, in which I had moved scenes around and edited others out completely. Verdi wrote the opera for about 65 musicians and 45 singers. I limited Fabrizio to 12 musicians and 10 singers. I asked him to envisage Verdi’s original score as a monolithic mid-19th century cathedral, erected in the Congolese forests during the colonial era. Since then it has been abandoned; jungle has grown into it; the window are shattered; it has been shot up in wars, and squatted by generations of villagers and refugees . . . what does it look and sound like now?

FringeArts: How did you develop the visuals for Macbeth?

Brett Bailey:  When I composed the dramaturgical, psychological and visual flow of the opera, I envisaged the entire stage picture, so the Macbeth story and the much larger story of what has been happening in the eastern DRC are conveyed in a sequence of “stage frames.” I collected hundreds of pictures online, and cropped and pasted these to design the opera, frame by frame. I designed projected backdrops, costumes, lighting colors, etc., to work together to convey meaning and atmosphere. The work is as much a piece of visual art as it is dramatic or operatic.

Further Reading

Macbeth, Barbican, Review: ‘An Astonishing Appropriation’ by Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

Excerpt: The performance is highly stylized, as everyone sings in Italian (with surtitles in a demotic English) and moves with choreographed precision in front of a screen on to which graphic images and contextualizing photographs and texts are projected. The borders between objectively verifiable fact and subjectively imaginative fiction seem irrelevant. Read the full article.

Engage the Art Events

Explore Macbeth with a list of film, lecture, and panel discussion events surrounding this production.

Film Screening: Brett Bailey: Caught in the Act
Produced and directed by Nicky Newman
Introduction by Dr. Megan Lewis, assistant professor of theater history and criticism, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Sept 16 at 7pm
Free / 90 minutes
Prince Theater
1412 Chestnut Street
Wheelchair accessible

Panel Discussion: Who gets to tell the story?

Sept 16 at 8:45pm
Free / 75 minutes
Prince Theater
1412 Chestnut Street
Wheelchair accessible

Panel discussion with members of Macbeth cast

Sept 20 at 7pm
Free / 120 minutes
African American Museum of Philadelphia
701 Arch Street

Performance Provocations: 20 Years of Brett Bailey and Third World Bunfight
Lecture by Dr. Megan Lewis

Dr. Megan Lewis (assistant professor of theater history and criticism, University of Massachusetts Amherst) is a South African-American theater historian and performance scholar concerned with the staging of national identity, gender, and race.

Sept 23 at 6pm
Free / 60 minutes
140 N. Columbus Boulevard
Wheelchair accessible

Film Screening: Mabele na biso
Directed by Petna Ndaliko

A thirty-minute documentary about community autonomy in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Introduced by Faustin Linyekula, creator of Le Cargo, followed by Q&A with Ndaliko.

Sept 23 at 8pm
Free / 60 minutes
140 North Columbus Boulevard
Wheelchair accessible

The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila
Pre-show talk with Kasongo M. Kapanga with introduction by Faustin Linyekula

Kasongo M. Kapanga is Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Richmond, VA. He has published several articles on Francophone literature (African and Caribbean) in French and in English in journal such as The French Review, Review of African Studies, as Études Créoles, Journal of Afro_Latin American Studies & Literatures, Französisch heute, The Journal of Asian & African Studies, Présence Francophone, French Forum and Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde. His book The Writing of the Nation: Expressing Identity through Congolese Literary Texts and Films (Africa World Press) is coming out soon. Broadly, his research has focused on the discursive analysis in African novels. Recently, he has taken on studying ways artistic (films) and literary creations by Congolese and non-Congolese on the representation (imagination) of the Congo from the early days of the Kongo Empire (15th–16th centuries), through the Congo Free State (19th century) and the Belgian Congo (1st part of the 20th century), to the present times.

Faustin Linyekula is the creator of Le Cargo.

Sept 24 at 6pm
Free to Macbeth ticket holders
Prince Theater
1412 Chestnut Street
Wheelchair accessible

FringeAxis and VIVACE Macbeth Pre-show
Free to FringeAxis members ($25 membership; includes 30% off tickets)

Join young friends of FringeArts and Opera Philadelphia for a pre-show discussion with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, followed by the 7pm performance of Macbeth (separate ticket).

Sept 25 at 5pm
Franky Bradley’s
1320 Chancellor Street

Opera Overtures Pre-show Talk
Sept 25 at 6pm
Free to Macbeth ticket holders
Prince Theater
1412 Chestnut Street
Wheelchair accessible


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