Music Moving Images
Lilien im Winter - La Bohème am Kap der Guten Hoffnung
Film: Bohème à l'africaine
Film by Mark Dornford-May (South Africa 2014)
Wed, 08 Jun 2016 6 p.m.
Hermann Wolff Room
Breathe Umphefumlo is a filmed version of Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème. The English theatre and opera director Mark Dornford-May is no stranger to adaptations of works of music theatre. He is the founder and director of the famous South African Isango Ensemble. His projects often begin as theatre productions and are then filmed. In our film series in mid-April 2012, we showed Dornford-May’s version of Bizet’s Carmen (U-Carmen eKhayelitsha), which won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale 2005. For La Bohème as well, Dornford-May situates the action in present-day South Africa. The opera is sung in the local language Xhosa, which is characterised by clicks, and comes with new instrumentation that lends an African tinge with marimbas and other percussion instruments. Pauline Malefane, the Carmen interpreter of his earlier film, took on musical direction together with Mandisi Dyantyis, and in a supporting role plays Mimi’s friend Zoleka.
The couple in love, played by Mhlekazi Mosiea (Rodolfo, alias Lungelo) and Busisiwe Ngejane (Mimi), is fighting to survive in the milieu of a South African township. The story is lent additional topicality and a highly charged nature by Mimi’s illness, which plays a leading role in the action. A very high share of the South African population is suffering from tuberculosis. Serious as the situation is, the many poetic and comical moments ensure that the film is never too dark and depressing.