Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi answered six questions about the upcoming Orphée et Eurydice theatre show.
I’d like to start with the big twist for this staging of Orphée et Eurydice, which is the fact that all the roles will be performed by female artists. How does this impact the production?
HM: The production has a simple yet beautiful message, and that is that it’s okay to love whoever you want to love. Especially in today’s world of all the negative headlines about corrective rape and homophobia towards LGBTI+ members of society’s poorer communities. Orphée et Eurydice presents love in a different kind of way, perhaps one that viewers aren’t necessarily used to. However, at the end of the day, one realises that we all experience the same highs, lows, heartbreaks, and love triumphs.
Are you able to give away anything about specific production elements, such as whether or not some of the given real-world examples will be incorporated into the storyline and/or design aesthetic?
HM: Subtly, they will be yes. I don’t want to give away too much, but there will also be a lot of fresh soil and dirt on stage. In addition, I won’t be wearing shoes during my performing either, which is a very liberating experience for me. Not wearing high heels for a change would make for a very welcome change.
It sounds as if not wearing one’s shoes on stage is a very liberating experience?
HM: Definitely! Apart from it being more practical and free-moving, I can actually feel all kinds of sound vibrations. This helps me find my character’s rhythm and I truly feel grounded as a result of it.
It is every human being’s dream to be able to find the love that your character, Eurydice, does. I mean, after you die he physically goes and searches for you in the afterlife. That’s commitment!
HM: (Laughs) Indeed, right? For me, I feel that Eurydice represents every woman, and therefore I can relate to her and her dreams and struggles. She’s a typical woman that goes through all the emotions that we all do. The kind of love she is yearning for is very difficult to find out there, however, we wake up every morning hopeful that today will be the day we meet our Orpheus.
On a technical level, what kind of a singer do you need to be to pull off a relatable Eurydice?
HM: In my opinion, as with all opera roles, you need to have lived a little, and experienced a few things in life, to be able to relate. But she luckily makes my job a little easier as mentioned, because she’s such a perfectly created character that represents all types of women.
You mention roles in opera that you believe one needs to live a little first in order to perform them to their full potential.
HM: There are so many, such as the Countess in Figaro, or some of the arias from my favourite French repertoires. And Mimi, of course, eventually!
Orphée et Eurydice can be seen at the Baxter for three performances only on 3, 5 and 7 September. The opera is sung in French with English and isiXhosa translations projected above the stage. Tickets are R180 – R280, and can be booked through Webtickets