Pauline Malefane and Mark Dornford-May accepting the London Critics' Olivier Award

This is one of the more adventurous, unusual and unconventional theater productions in which I have been involved. Using an eclectic mix of theater-techniques, re-orchestrations, and major re-stylisation, Mozart’s masterpiece Die Zauberflöte (K620) was workshopped and reshaped into the English musical theatre piece Impempe Yomlingo – Magic Flute. African dance, costume and instruments retell the story in a context with South African resonance. Musical influences include calypso and more traditional African music. 

Critical acclaim for the production and its various revivals at theatres around the world was high. It won the Globes de Cristal at the Théâtre de Châtelet and an Olivier Award in London.

What the international press had to say:

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Thrillingly, heart-burstingly alive
Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times

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True Mozartians will love this enchanting version by Isango Portobello… It has all the original’s essential qualities: soaring lyricism, a sense of celebration, generous moral urgency, playful joviality. From the off, it is touching, sexy and cheeky and leaves you with a rare sense of life-enhancing joy
Sunday Times

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The overture would surely have made Mozart laugh with delight… Exuberant and youthful… a smash hit. Pauline Malefane is a majestic presence as the Queen of the Night
Sunday Telegraph

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Truly enchanting for children and adults. Warm, collective, universally accessible, musical magic
Time Out

Pauline Malefane as the Queen of the Night

An explosion of joy from the townships of South Africa… noble and beautiful and tender and funny and touching and true… Exuberance invention and glorious ensemble singing… A sense of celebration and resilience, that seems to encapsulate the human spirit at its best. Pauline Malefane is a thrilling Queen of the Night
Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph

Mozart would surely have loved it. Delightful
Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail

Performed with infectious wit and visible joy…
Mark Dornford-May’s vibrant, elating production

Paul Taylor, Independent

Mandasi Dyantyis has brilliantly rescored The Magic Flute… the singers are accompanied by eight marimbas which send a gurgle through the familiar music: it is as if the whole opera were floating on a stream of water. Sometimes it bounces, sometimes is jazzes… It is not only played: it is performed. This is music embodied and enacted… The spirit of Mozart is honoured while every decorous preconception is ditched. At the front of the auditorium five year-olds were gawping; at the back, 60-year-olds were doing the same.
Susannah Clapp, The Observer

Mozart as you have never heard him before, but magic nevertheless… familiar melodies filtered through the distinctive heartfelt and soulful sound and beat of black South Africa. I defy you not to sway along in your seat. A joyous show
Mail on Sunday

When the classical arias and ethnic ululations fuse, it’s euphoric. Mozart would surely have loved the cheeky wit of turning his orchestra into eight marimbas and the magic flute into a silvery jazz trumpet
Independent on Sunday

A joyous, exuberant experience
The Sun

Zamile Gantana is a hugely entertaining Papageno (Photo: Keith Patterson)

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Performed with unbridled passion and explosive joy
An object lesson in how to create authentic, vibrant theatre

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Packing enough energy to power a couple of national grids, and enough decibels to lift several roofs.Exhilarating and vibrant, exuberant entertainment
Richard Morrison, The Times

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Mark Dornford-May’s stunning adaptation. Listening to the overture played on marimbas is like hearing it with fresh ears
Michael Billington, The Guardian

Busisiwe Ngejane, Thazamo Mdliva, Sifundo Soji & Zamile Gantana

(Picture by Mark Freeburg)
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Pauline Malefane is exquisite as the soprano Queen Of The Night

The production team of Magic Flute – Impempe Yomlingo:

Director: Mark Dornford-May
Lighting: Mannie Manim
Choreographer: Lungelo Ngamlana
Costume: Leigh Bishop, Annamarie Seegers
Music Director: Mandisi Dyantis
Voive Teacher: Nolufefe Ntshabe
Repetiteur, music- and vocal coach: Albert Combrink

For more information, see