As always, the annual Wexford Opera Festival in Ireland is a much anticipated event for opera lovers around the world, and this year was no exception. The event opened with the Frederick Delius opera, Koanga, featuring the talented South African opera singer and entrepreneur, Nozuko Teto in the role of Palmyra. She is receiving rave reviews for her wonderful performance.
Along Ireland’s south-east coast, Wexford Festival Opera has built a global reputation for its staging of operatic rarities. Each year three operas are presented in Ireland’s National Opera House and the chances are that they will be unfamiliar to many. This year’s festival opened with Frederick Delius’ Koanga, directed by Michael Gielata and featuring South Africa’s Nozuko Teto in the role of Palmyra. The opera was created as a result of Delius’ experiences in America. Koanga, one of the first serious operas to feature black protagonists, draws on the influences of spirituals and African-American music, nearly forty years before Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. It tells the story of Koanga, an African prince sold into slavery. Martinez, the Louisiana plantation owner, realises Koanga will not be bullied into submission and hatches a plan to use Palmyra (played by Nozuko Teto), his wife’s maid (and secret half-sister) to persuade him to become submissive. It works and Martinez suggests Koanga and Palmyra marry, much to the fury of estate manager Simon Perez, who has been making unwanted advances towards Palmyra. At the wedding, Perez abducts Palmyra. Koanga escapes and places a voodoo curse on Martinez’s estate. In a state of collapse, the plantation struggles on. Perez offers to save Palmyra. Koanga returns to rescue her, but is captured and killed. Palmyra renounces her Christian faith and stabs herself.
Nozuko has been receiving wonderful reviews for her opening night performance, such as the one below: