One of this year’s BIFM Festival Concert headlines was Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, 4th movement, which is the European Union’s anthem and, as a result, sponsored for the second time by the European Union to celebrate their 50th Anniversary. This first sponsor had been at the first Maitisong Festival Concert in 1987.
President Festus Mogae, and diplomatic delegates alongside the delegation of the European Union, attended the festival. The Johannesburg Festival Orchestra, conducted by David Slater, played the concert opening the evening with The National Anthem. This was followed by a clarinet concerto from the 3rd movement by Wolfgang Mozart, performed by Aobakwe Molosiwa. Followed by a piano concerto by Laone Thekiso played from memory.
The Gaborone Music Society and Sedibeng Choral Society choruses mounted the ramps at the back of the stage joining the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra, which returns annually to perform at the Festival Concerts alongside Botswana’s operatic talent. They performed The Ode of Joy from the 9th Symphony with soloists Beverly Chiat (soprano), Atieno Samandari (alto), Boyce Batlang (tenor) and Peter Mcebi (bass) who has appeared in two of Mzilikazi Khumalo’s operas Ushaka ka Senzangakhona and Princess Magogo.
The significance of this composition is best explained by the evening program that informs that Beethoven lived from 1770 to 1827, a chaotic time in Europe when the masses denounced royal houses with the French Revolution beheading their King and Queen and giving birth to European democracy.
The program also stated that Beethoven had been a great supporter of the new democracy, and composing his 3rd symphony, an ode to the Hero of the Revolution, Napoleon. Beethoven would angrily cancel his ode when Napoleon installed himself as Emperor. He then penned the 4th movement that is characterised by violent rushes of sounds and interruptions by cellos and human voices, which eventually merge, singing about the joy in freedom.
Solo performances followed after the 9th Symphony, Gape Motswaledi (baritone), Tshenolo Segokgo (who received a standing ovation from President Mogae for her rendition of Puccini’s Un Bel Di Vedraimo from Madam Butterfly), Boyce Batlang, one third of the Three Tswana Tenors, and a rare performance by Daniel Motswiri (bass).
Beverly Chiat, a Coloratura Soprano based in Cape Town, performed three solo performances the most memorable being Ebben ne Andro Lontana that showed off her amazing higher vocal register.
The Gaborone Music Society performed Finale: Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail by Mozart and Sedibeng Choral Society, The Marvellous Work from Joseph Haydn’s Creation from their upcoming annual concert, followed by Karabo a composition by Sedibeng’s conductor Andy Batshogile
The second last duet was between Beverly Chiat and Gape Motswaledi, where Gape sings as the hero wooing the lady and eventually ‘winning’ her. This resulted in an unexpected ululation by one woman in the crowd, bringing similarities between Mozart’s La Ci Darem to the meaning of Selete dancing between men and women, which usually end in trills of ululation when the male dancer is victorious.
The concert was enjoyable besides having a gentleman sitting on my left, engaging his date in an earnest conversation and occasionally responding in a rock n’ roll concert stylee to the performance on stage.
Which makes one wonder about opera etiquette, some of the audience timidly requested an encore after the concert finale while my neighbour roared his approval after performance by Beverly Chiat and Aobakwe Ebineng rendering Verdi’s Brindisi from the opera La Traviata. Perhaps I should ask those versed in such conduct on what is acceptable. Must we carry to the theatre blossoms to fling at the singers after a wonderful performance, passionately cry ‘Encore’ when we want more, or is a simple staccato of ‘We-Want-More’ accompanied by percussive hand-claps allowed?