Poet and Prophetess

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Poet and Prophetess is an opera with music by Mats Larsson Gothe and libretto by Michael Williams (1962-)

Adapted as a one-act opera (Act 3 of the original opera) with the title African Prophetess.

The original text

Inspired by the story of the Xhosa prophetess, Nongqawuse and the cattle killings that took place in the 1850’s in the Eastern Cape. Its story combines two real-life figures in Swedish and Xhosa history. The story revolves around a fictitious meeting between the 19-year-old Swedish poet Bengt Lidner and the Xhosa prophetess Nongqawuse (renamed Jula, a slave girl) on board the vessel Terra Nova sailing around the Cape of Good Hope.

First performed in 2008 at Norrlandsoperan in Sweden.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

2008: Commissioned and co-produced by NorlandOperan in Sweden (first performed 29 March 2008) and Cape Town Opera in Cape Town (30 October – 8 November), directed by Matthew Richardson, conducted by Jonas Alber. With Göran Eliasson, Phi-lisa Sibeko, Elisabet Strid, Thomas Lander, Lars Martinsson, Kosma Ranuer, Stefan Dahlberg, Anna Johansson, Rouel Beukes, Miranda Tini, Xolela Sixaba, Richard Mbovane, Aubrey Lodewyk. Dancers: Bruno Wani, Owen Manamela, Nosiphiwo Samente. Extras: Augustin Øigaard Nelson, Emil Engdahl Badjie, Kjell Oscarsson, Moa Daimar, Viktor Lockner, Oscar Selander.

2016: A concert version performed as African Prophetess at Norrlandsoperan in Sweden and Stockholms kulturhuset in Stockholm.


Wayne Muller. 2018. A reception history of opera in Cape Town: Tracing the development of a distinctly South African operatic aesthetic (1985–2015). Unpublished PhD thesis.

"Operan Poet and prophetess, i samarbete med Cape Town Opera". Norrlandsoperan. https://norrlandsoperan.se/norrlandsoperans-symfoniorkester/bestallningsverk-uruppforanden/

"Background". Cape Town Opera website. https://capetownopera.co.za/touring-production/african-prophetess/

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