"QUEEN OF AFRICA"
A ballet in Two Acts
Music: Charl-Johan Lingerfelder
Although this production is called a "ballet", in that it is movement to music based on the classical technique, my collaborators and I hoped to create a new form of theatre when we extend the boundaries of conceptual music and dance.
The story lends itself to wonderful choreographic possibilities - of great and erotically lyrical pas de deux. I used a contemporary classical style of dance, which was particularly appealing on the highly trained beautiful sculpted bodies of the dancers of Cape Town City Ballet.
Within a limited budget we were trying to mirror the magnificence of Ancient Egypt, but using the modern stage facilities that the theatre offers.
The staging is planned to be large-scale, using the double depth of the Nico opera stage and even the orchestra pit, from which the cast surface at the beginning of the ballet, as Uraeus, the serpent God descends from the high above the stage.
Echoing all the most famous images of the temples, pyramids and the sand-swept desert, we also use four large movable towers which contain reproductions of segments of statues from Abu Sunbel and also house musicians as part of the stage picture.
All the battles are shown using masses of dancers and the effects of lighting, smoke and shadow-play. Within this epic framework, the passionate story of Cleopatra and her love for Caesar and Anthony is told.
Notes by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder
For the soundtrack of Veronica Paeper's full-length ballet, Cleopatra, I have gone back to my classical roots and have re-examined them in terms of the work I have done in the past few years. Although classical in essence, the score contains definite departures from the confirmed and conformed methods of classical composition.
Unusual and unique instruments are combined with voices and classical instruments and placed against a soundscape of atmospheric treatments. With the intention of creating a theatrical musical experience, the execution of the score was planned hand in hand with top sound designer, Robin Shuttleworth and is heavily dependent on and embraces all technologies at hand.
While doing research, I then decided to cast my net wider and discovered that the Egyptian sound I had in mind, was in fact one that was more universally stooped in tradition and the merging of different cultures. I therefore ended up drawing from the musical culture of the Australian Aborigines, the Japanese Kabuki, and the Amazonian Indians, and in combining this with traditional Egyptian and African music, found a sound that approximated what I felt was applicable to the story at hand.
I have been aware of the fascination composers such as Bela Bartòk has had with the Bulgarian Folksong. But by listening to it for the first time, I had an immense awareness of listening to something so fascinatingly beautiful, yet totally inexplicable. These Bulgarian ladies are totally untrained, yet manage to sing the most complex rhythms and melodies and do so naturally and effortlessly. On reading about the voices, I was not surprised then to find that the history of Bulgarian singing was filled with mythology and can be traced through every part of their history - way beyond the half millenium of subjection to the Ottoman yoke, and deep into the ancient history of the Thracians, the ancestors of the Bulgarians.
I decided to use samples of these voices in the ballet, and I am hugely indebted to Marcel Cellier from Switzerland, who has allowed me to use samples of the Bulgarian female voices taken from his CD, Le Mystère des voix Bulgares.
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