The musical, The Mandela Trilogy, (formerly known as African Songbook: A Tribute to the Life of Nelson Mandela) was first performed by the Cape Opera in 2010, followed by sold-out performances in the UK and Germany.
Written and produced by composers Peter Louis van Dijk and Mike Campbell with librettist Michael Williams, the musical uses original South African music, fusing traditional Xhosa songs, classical music, jazz and modern songs, to complement the three-part journey of a young Madiba’s early years maturing from a rural farm life to lawyer and freedom fighter.
In an interview in 2014, Williams spoke about the high international standard of musical theatre the show upheld, while remaining uniquely African. He called the show “a bright, bold and brassy show that pulls together all the musical traditions of South Africa”.
In 2016, The Guardian newspaper called the musical – which had a run at the Royal Festival Hall in London – a “successful and original retelling of a story told many times before… using compelling storytelling techniques and powerful cast”.
The musical has been popular with many South Africans living abroad. The idea behind its debut in Dubai, in particular, as spearheaded by the Dubai Opera CEO, South African-born Jasper Hope, who saw an opportunity to bring the story to the relatively large South African community in the UAE.
Hope told the Gulf News website: “I’m delighted Dubai Opera is able to collaborate with the fantastic Cape Town Opera to share the story of Nelson Mandela’s heroic and inspirational life, presented in this brilliantly colourful production with its intoxicating mix of opera, jazz and Xhosa sounds and rhythms.”
Following discussions with the Opera House, for Brand South Africa, the three performances – held between 9 and 11 November 2017 – were a perfect occasion to promote the nation brand and engage with the South African diaspora in the Gulf.
The Mandela Trilogy performances were used to strengthen brand advocacy for South Africa’s brand identity, image, competitiveness and value proposition.
According to reports, the Dubai performances were a hit with South Africans, and they played to full houses of up to 2,000 seats, on all three nights. The evenings inspired many to talk to fellow compatriots and UAE residents to present a positive global image of the country’s history and culture to the region, just as Mandela himself had intended.