South Africa’s Isango Ensemble ‘Hits and Misses’ With Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’ (Ends Today!)

2.Mhlekazi "Wha Wha" Mosiea (right) and Zolina Ngejane in the Isango Ensemble's "The Magic Flute" at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica
Mhlekazi “Wha Wha” Mosiea as “Tamino” (right) and Zolina Ngejane as “Pamina” in the Isango Ensemble’s “The Magic Flute” at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica

Final performance 4p.m. on Sunday, October 12

*South African Theatre comes to America! The Broad Stage hosts the internationally acclaimed Isango Ensemble to perform Mozart’s classic, “The Magic Flute” for six performances.

The story is basically about Tamino and Pamina – two young people who fall in love with each other based on being shown each others’ photographs, then go through a series of adventurous mishaps before they meet and can be together. Pamina is the daughter of the Queen of the Night and she was kidnapped by an evil man. Tamino is a traveler who vows to find her. Along the way he is met by three ladies who continuously compete with each other as they vie for his attention; a hilarious “bird-catcher,” spirits, and an assortment of other characters – all of whom lend themselves to the play’s chaos and order.

Mandisi Dyantyis is the passionate conductor who leads musicians on both sides of the stage in the overture to "The Magic Flute"
Mandisi Dyantyis is the passionate conductor who leads musicians on both sides of the stage in the overture to “The Magic Flute”

The Broad Stages’ South African-fused production opens with a powerful overture performed by an orchestra of talented musicians playing an assortment of percussion instruments including marimbas, congas, and drums; passionately led by musical director, Mandisi Dyantyis – who is enhanced on a big screen.

The ensemble is a talented and hard-working cast of artists who are drawn from the townships that surround Cape Town. The production overall is quite lively and entertaining – with truly inspired performances by the male dancers in Sarastro’s compound; the strong acting and beautiful singing voice of Pauline Malefane as the “Queen of the Night,” and the funny and sometimes naughty antics of Papageno the bird catcher (played delightfully by Zamile Gantana).

But at times the production seems to slow to a crawl – mainly during scenes where the once-thought-evil-turned-good-guy “Sarastro”  (Simphiwe Mayeki) does his uninspired speeches. The actor does have an incredible speaking and singing voice though!

Magic Flute Queen of the Night
Pauline Malefane as the “Queen of the Night” in the Isango Ensemble production of “The Magic Flute”

Leigh Bishop’s costumes overall were just okay. Her “Queen of the Night” costume was creative, but underwhelming for a “Queen” and was more reminiscent of a witch; while Pamina her daughter, in that drab gray dress and matching leggings, looked less like a “princess” and more like a pauper.

Magic Flute princess and spirits
Zolina Ngejane as Pamina (the princess) surrounded by spirits

Clungelo NGamlana’s choreography was wonderful, as was the lighting done by Mannie Manim.

The Isango Ensemble’s production won the Olivier Award for “Best Musical Revival and received the Globes de Cristal award for Best Opra Production following a sold-out season in Paris.

The beautiful Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center opened its doors in 2008. And though it was inspired by Italian “horseshoe” theaters, it is conceived in a contemporary vernacular. And true to its promotion, it actually is sublimely intimate and strikingly grand at the same time. It is a truly beautiful performance space.

‘The Magic Flute’ ends today.

Where: Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica

When:  4 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $49 to $120

Info: or (310) 434-3200

Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes


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