Isango Ensemble and La Boheme perform in London

Isango Ensemble and La Boheme perform in London

Read about this inspiring Puccini opera project, that is using La Boheme to address the topic of TB in South Africa.


The Global Fund and Isango Ensemble have joined forces in a unique partnership, with the acclaimed South African theatre group producing an extraordinary new version of Puccini’s classic opera La Bohème.

The world premiere performance took place on 23 February 2012 in Cape Town, with an international tour beginning at London’s Hackney Empire in May 2012.

The Global Fund is proud to partner with the innovative and multi-award-winning Isango Ensemble in their latest distinctly South African re-working of a western classic. Having already taken the world’s theatres by storm with their versions of Carmen and The Magic Flute, Isango’s La Bohème not only retains the musical brilliance of Puccini’s most popular work, but also helps cast a spotlight on the devastation caused by tuberculosis.

La Bohème – Abanxaxhi and TB

Isango’s version, entitled La Bohème – Abanxaxhi (the Xhosa language translation) moves the setting from the garrets of mid-nineteenth century Paris to the townships of contemporary Africa, with the score played on marimbas and steel pans.

At the heart of the opera’s love story is the death of the heroine Mimi. She dies from tuberculosis – a mass killer more than 150 years ago when Puccini set the original opera and a mass killer today in South Africa and many other parts of the developing world.

There is a particular poignancy and relevance about Mimi’s death, especially for South Africans like the cast of Isango who are drawn from the country’s townships. The overcrowded and poor townships have some of the world’s highest TB rates. In the extended families of the cast many live with the realities of the disease on a daily basis.

International Performances

As the world’s largest international financier in the fight against TB, the Global Fund intends at events around international performances of Isango’s La Bohème – Abanxaxhi to show that TB is not a disease of the past but a contemporary reality that causes widespread suffering and death across large swathes of the planet. While recognizing the progress made to date, the goal is to seek the political will and funding for the world to effectively fight the disease.

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