Opera Z tackles gruesome Kongamato legend

DINOSAURS may still be living in Zambia’s North-Western Province, according to a legend that will be played out in a new musical show currently being put together in Lusaka.

Rehearsals are on-going for the Opera Z collective’s first performance of the opera, which explores the legend of the Kongamato – breaker of boats – a pterodactyl-like creature said to have been seen by the people and explorers in the Mwinilunga district’s Jiundu swamps and first documented in 1923.

The mysterious creature has variously been described as a modern-day Jurassic dinosaur; an enormous bird – perhaps a saddle-billed stork; or a giant bat.

There are no photographs, nor have any bodies been found, leaving the stories to rely on eyewitness accounts.

Preparations are underway of the second opera to be staged by the Opera Z classical music theatre company, with casting and rehearsals already started for the world premiere of a new contemporary opera, which dramatises the legend of the Kongamato.

More than 50 classical trained Zambian musicians, singers and dancers will perform in the opera at the Lusaka Playhouse from April 9-11, 2015.

The Opera Z Orchestra, chorus and dancers will showcase some of the country’s best talent in The Legend of Konga mato.

This is a story of love, war and intrigue that tells the tale of a village fisher boy who saves his chiefdom from the marauding Kongamato and wins the heart of their king’s daughter.

Performers will be led by conductor Daniel Siisii, and the opera stars soloists including Paddy Mukando, Nalu Lubose, Jerry Mudenda, Maimbolwa Akabana, Chrispin Lindunda, Stanley Musowe and Daniel Mwalwembe.

Music direction is by Baldwin Nasilele; choreography by Nadezda Chibanda; stage manager is Daniel Mwalwembe.

A costume and stage designer is still being sought.

The opera is composed and written by long-term Zambia resident Dr Peter Langmead, who has spent much of his working life travelling throughout Zambia for his work, drawing inspiration for the composition from his experiences and observation.

“The Legend of Konga mato is an exciting, fast-paced and spectacular story, perfect for the subject of an opera.” said Dr Langmead.

“It is also an opportunity for people to see the remarkable – and often hidden – talent that we have in Zambia.”

Dr Langmead’s vision is to restore opera’s reputation as an entertainment event for ordinary people, rather than an elitist art form.

He aims to encourage and stage new compositions by new composers, and break the mould, rather than dwell on the traditional Western classical work.

Instead he hopes to impart his enthusiasm and passion for contemporary classical music to a new generation of young performers and artists who are keen to break down the barriers between old and new, traditional and modern, and classical and contemporary music.

The opera will be staged at the Lusaka Playhouse at 19hrs  from Thursday, April 9, to Saturday, April 11. Tickets are K200 and can be reserved by calling 0976 750044 or emailing OperaZ@langmead.com

Opera Z is a collective of talented classically trained Zambian singers and musicians, along with some of the country’s leading contemporary dancers. The aim is to showcase new contemporary compositions through performances throughout Zambia and internationally.

The group also aims to nurture emerging classical music talent, inspire new musicians to reach their potential and provide a platform to bring work to a wider audience.

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