U-Carmen E Khayelitsha | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

In the quest to make classic opera more contemporary, Mark Dornford-May's adaptation of Georges Bizet's Carmen is a winner. The story -- an age-old melodrama of choosing sexual attraction over domesticity -- has been shifted to the present-day South African township of Khayelitsha, where cigarette-factory worker Carmen (Pauline Malefane) spars with Jongikhaya (Andile Tshoni), a policeman from the country. It's a vibrant setting in which the story's conflicts of class, sex and power feel utterly natural; so too do the throngs of citizens taking to the streets in full-throated choruses, reminiscent of the region's civil-rights struggles that were often marked by song and dance. Throughout, U-Carmen offers Bizet's glorious opera, now sung in Xhosa, an African language that literally makes these otherwise traditionally rendered songs pop. Oddly, Carmen's most famous piece of music -- the toreador song -- never gets a full airing; it's reduced to a few sub-plot snippets, though it's likely you won't miss it in this engrossing swirl of colorful song. Pittsburgh Opera artistic director and South African native Christopher Hahn will introduce the film at the 8 p.m. Fri., May 25, screening; reduced ticket is $4. Starts Fri., May 25. In Xhosa, with subtitles. Harris (AH) [capsule review]

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