'The Passion of Winnie' will be staged at the South Africa State Theatre in Pretoria next April. Both the music and the libretto are by South Africans, Bongani Ndodana-Breen and Warren Wilensky respectively, and the work is thought to be the first opera to be wholly written in the country.
Wilensky, who is also producing the show, said of the project: "I don't think it gets any better. She is the perfect operatic character. The highs and lows of her life are too big for a normal dramatic story. It's not about a grand heroine, it's about real life and humanity. She was there at a difficult time with no support and came to personify the struggle. We're trying to tell a fully-rounded story that I don't think has been told before."
The libretto is in a combination of English and Xhosa. It opens at hearings of the post-Apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission before recounting Mandela's earlier life in flashbacks. The international press attending the Commission hearings take the role of a Greek chorus.