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Winnie Mandela, Ex-Wife Of Nelson Mandela, To Be Immortalized In New Opera, Movie

Winnie Mandela

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 12/28/10 02:42 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:20 PM ET

Move over, Evita Peron -- the life of another controversial female political figure is about to get both musical and cinematic treatment.

According to the BBC, an opera based on the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, is set to debut in Pretoria sometime in 2011. Penned by South African-born composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen and filmmaker Warren Wilensky, Winnie: The Opera is expected to feature a 60-piece orchestra and combine western sounds with traditional African music, performed in both English and Xhosa. Casting is due to be announced next month.

Believed to be the first of its kind composed and orchestrated in South Africa, the opera is actually the second to portray Madikizela-Mandela; a Canadian production called The Passion of Winnie hit stages in 2007, though the former African National Congress Women's League head, now 73, was unable to attend the Toronto premiere due to visa complications. "She is the perfect operatic character," Wilensky told the Independent. "The highs and lows of her life are too big for a normal dramatic story."

Whether or not a "Don't Cry for Me, South Africa" number will be included remains to be seen, but judging from the campaign material, Winnie: The Opera seems likely to include similar doses of melodrama. "She gave voice to a time," the press release reads, according to the Telegraph. "She gave voice to a place. She gave voice to a people. Love her or hate her...but come and hear her."

But Madikizela-Mandela fans who can't make the trek to South Africa needn't fret, as a film version of their heroine's life is also in the works. As IMDB reports, Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson will take on the title role in 2011's Winnie, opposite Iron Man star Terrence Howard as Nelson Mandela.


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