Bongani Ndodana-Breen

Sea Point Story

Music by Bongani Ndodana-Breen
Libretto by Nicholas Spagnoletti

À propos de l'œuvre

“A Sea Point Story” is a new chamber opera based by composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen based on the play “London Road” by Nicholas Spagnoletti. The play received 3 Fleur du Cap Awards, and The Stage [Edinburgh] Award, it also won a Standard Bank Golden Ovation award, a Naledi Theatre Award and the Olive Schreiner Prize from the English Academy of SA.

The opera is set in Sea Point in South Africa, just after the of end of apartheid in the late 1990s. Sea Point was then a dangerous area due to high crime, absentee landlords and an influx of illegal immigrants. However, even through difficult times Sea Point kept its charm due to the communal beach-front promenade used by residents from all backgrounds for walking, socializing, and enjoying the fresh sea air.

Set during South Africa’s political transition, “A Sea Point Story” is the moving account of an unlikely friendship between two women. The libretto spans the course of several months in the lives of the elderly Rosa and the much younger Stella.

While the two live in the same apartment block, they have very different personalities and histories. Stella's flat is the old caretaker's flat – small, cramped and in bad condition. Rosa's flat is bigger and more comfortable with a balcony and a view of ocean.

Rosa is a privileged elderly Jewish widow whose children have emigrated to Australia and Israel. Neglected by her children and alone in South Africa, she battles with memory loss and frailty but keeps busy by being overly involved in the lives of those around her. Stella is a young Nigerian woman who is street smart and an illegal immigrant dealing with the trauma of a husband who deserted her after infecting her with HIV.

Brought together by a chance meeting in Stella’s apartment, the two women form an unlikely friendship that grows from suspicion and meddling to true affection. Both revel in their cynical yet humorous view of the world as their experiences in, and musings about, the world strengthen the bond between them. A friendship that was once inconceivable to both of them due to their race, class and age difference becomes a source of strength through the various challenges they confront. “A Sea Point Story” touches on issues such as the interconnected nature of xenophobia, gentrification, HIV-status, elder-care, gender, race and class, this new

South African chamber opera produced by Africa Arts addresses issues of intersectionality through the lens of a shared humanity.


Durée :

Instrumentation :

Number of singers: Rosa (Mezzo), Stella (Soprano) SATB Chorus of 8 (including a tenor and bass that sing brief solos)

Number of instrumentalists: 12


Date de composition:



Developed by Africa Arts Group


To be premiered in 2023


Composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen has written a wide range of music encompassing symphonic work, opera, chamber music and vocal music. According to The New York Times his “delicately made music - airy, spacious, terribly complex but never convoluted - has a lot to teach the Western wizards of metric modulation and layered rhythms about grace and balance.”

Performers around the world have performed his music including the Minnesota Orchestra, Belgian National Orchestra, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau, Vancouver Opera Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, Kwa Zulu-Natal Philharmonic, Johannesburg Festival Orchestra, Johannesburg Philharmonic, Cape Town Philharmonic, New York City’s Vox Vocal Ensemble, New Julliard Ensemble, Juventas Ensemble, Continuum Contemporary Music Toronto, Chicago’s Cube Ensemble, Avalon String Quartet and Ossia.

Ndodana-Breen has received commissions from Wigmore Hall, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Vancouver Recital Society, Madam Walker Theatre Indianapolis, SAMRO, University of South Africa, Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival, Cape Town Opera, the Emancipation Festival of Trinidad & Tobago, Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, Luminato Festival Toronto, Haydn Festspiele Eisenstadt (Haydn 200th anniversary), Classical Movements and the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival.

He is the composer of Winnie, The Opera based on the life of Mrs Winnie Mandela, which premiered to great acclaim at the State Theatre in Pretoria. On this opera Die Beeld wrote: “Ndodana-Breen is a composer of stature. This is confirmed by the outstanding portraiture of Winnie.” Music scholar Naomi Andre devotes a chapter in Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement on his opera.

Ndodana-Breen’s Harmonia Ubuntu commissioned for the Centenary of Nelson Mandela) was premiered in 2018 by the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vanska in Minneapolis by the and on their historic tour to South Africa led to a profile of Ndodana-Breen on CNN’s African Voices. Other works by Ndodana-Breen include Three Orchestral Songs on Poems of Ingrid Jonker which was commissioned for The Cape Town Philharmonic to mark the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death, Ma Sisulu Sinfonia commissioned by the Johannesburg Philharmonic led by Bill Eddins, Hani a short opera on anti-apartheid activist Chris Hani and an oratorio Credo based on South Africa’s Freedom Charter commissioned by UNISA. Recordings of Ndodana-Breen’s music are available on Naxos’ Capriccio label and MSR Classics.

Ndodana-Breen graduated with a Ph.D. (Music Composition) from Rhodes University and was a 2019/2020 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. He was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music and selected as one of the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans. He was Director of the Canadian new music organization Ensemble Noir from 1999 - 2007 touring to Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. According to Canada’s The Globe and Mail “He seems to be just as interested in giving pleasure as in opening people’s minds… which makes him doubly a novelty on the Toronto New Music scene” (Globe and Mail, Nov 2001).


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