Umculo presents the world premiere of Romeo’s Passion


Romeo's Passion posterFive singers, three musicians, new material and old traditions – a new work of music theatre that breaks many taboos.

So much more than just entertainment… certainly not what you think of when you hear the word opera!

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Umculo brings Romeo’s Passion to the Outreach Foundation’s Hillbrow Theatre, with performances on 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, and 21 September at 11:00, and one evening performance on 15 September at 18:00.

Berlin-based Australian composer Cathy Milliken and German librettist/stage director Robert Lehmeier have joined forces to examine a complex story of family and community tensions.

Composer Cathy Milliken
Composer Cathy Milliken

“Cathy has developed the material for “Romeo’s Passion” together with librettist and stage director Robert Lehmeier through a series of interactive creative workshops, yet the finished product is very much in her own distinctive musical language. This is a coming out tale with a difference, a bittersweet family saga that speaks to everyone, an act of courage, a leap of faith, a love story”, says Shirley Apthorp, Umculo’s CEO.

Romeo's Passion: Thabiso Manemene + July Zuma © Suzy Bernstein
Romeo’s Passion: Thabiso Manemene + July Zuma © Suzy Bernstein

“My peers in the Queensland Youth Orchestra used to mention Catherine Milliken in tones of awe. She was just a few years ahead of us, but already in the “legend” category as a teenager. Before we could catch up, she had disappeared to become a founder member of Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt. It was in the mid-90s that I first heard her perform – Stockhausen’s “Spiral” for oboe and shortwave radio, in the Mozarteum at the Salzburg Festival. I was fascinated by the lithe agility and wildness of her playing, the strange mixture of polish with fearlessness. And she has continued to intrigue me ever since. For seven years she led the education programme of the Berliner Philharmoniker, creating extraordinary collaborative works with community groups from schoolchildren to prisoners all over the world. Now she is devoting all her time to composition and international education initiatives, and I still can’t quite believe my luck that she has written an opera for Umculo”.

Thabiso Masemene in Romeo's Passion © Suzy Bernstein
Thabiso Masemene in Romeo’s Passion © Suzy Bernstein

Part of an ongoing partnership between international NPC Umculo and the Outreach Foundation, it is cutting-edge artistic work with, and for, local communities. It is a story of love and trauma, acceptance and conflict, expectations, disappointments, revelations and challenges – this is a coming-out, a coming-of-age, a taste of things to come. Romeo’s Passion cast comprises Mlamli Lalapantsi, Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, Thabiso Masemene, Sarah Suping and July Zuma with instrumentalists Paul Ferreira, Zosukumizizwe Ntuli and Cathy Milliken.

“Don’t miss this world premiere at the Hillbrow Theatre this week, and next week.”

Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi in Romeo's Passion © Suzy Bernstein
Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi in Romeo’s Passion © Suzy Bernstein

Performances: 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21 September at 11:00 and 15 September (press night) at 18:00 at Hillbrow Theatre, 14 Kapteijn Street, Hillbrow – duration: 60 minutes, followed by a public Q & A.

Free admission – donations requested.

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