Looking back...

... at past festivals. See how JIMF has grown!

2018: Papageno/Papagena

I am recalling one of the charmingly comic scenes in Mozart’s Magic Flute when Tamino and Papageno set out on their quest to free Pamina from Sarastro’s clutches. Papageno: “I’m thinking I’m coming down with a touch of fever.” – Tamino: “Shame on you, Papageno! Be a man!” – Papageno: “I wish I were a girl! Oh! Oh! Oh! My last hour has struck!”.

In Mozart’s singspiel, first performed in 1791, Papageno is the funny and lazy counterpart of the noble prince Tamino. The braver is Tamino, the more fearful Papageno becomes, the more austere is the one, the more the other enjoys his food, being driven by a light-hearted joie de vivre. One can easily find in this character many traits of Hanswurst, the comic figure of the early 18th-century Viennese comedy, as well as of Harlequin in the traditional Italian Commedia dell’arte. At the heart of Papageno’s character features lies the portrayal of a wild man figure as the 18th-century symbol of man in the state of nature. Mozart’s take on notions of Enlightenment includes an interplay with male/female gender identities. A complicated discussion for today’s contributors to this debate, but at least in the opera Papageno finally meets the long desired Papagena!

This year’s edition of the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival pays tribute to the Papageno and Papagena theme, exploring the relationship between male and female identities in music as well as the idea of opposites and contrasts in a wider sense. We are delighted to present a rich variety of composers and styles with a special focus on women composers such as Rebecca Clarke, Graciane Finzi, Sofia Gubaidulina, Betsy Jolas, Alma Mahler, Fanny Mendelssohn, Priaulx Rainier and Clara Schumann. Not only one, but two Composers-in-Residence, Matthijs van Dijk and Lungiswa Plaatjies, have come on board for JIMF 2018.

The diversity of the programme reflects once again that the Festival places great emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches, providing innovative intersections between “classical” repertoires, new music, improvisation, film, dance, theatre and contemporary South African art. The JIMF’s educational initiatives, too, are going from strength to strength. Our current vocal scholars at the Musikhochschule in Cologne/Germany have recently enjoyed international competition successes and concert engagements. The 2018 Festival will, of course, see another edition of the annual vocal masterclass, along with several other composition and performance workshops.

Between 26 January and 4 February, all our artists and ensembles will JoIn forces in what promises to be a very exciting Festival edition.

May I wish you inspiring concerts and encounters!


Florian Uhlig

Artistic Director


2017: That's All Folk(s)!

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2016: Alla Turca

“It is dull, Son of Adam, to drink without eating,” said the Queen presently. “What would you like best to eat?” “Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty,” said Edmund. The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight.”

The eighth year of the JIMF pays tribute to Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca and beyond. Ever since Mozart’s days, when the city of Vienna was besieged by the Turks during the war, composers and audiences have been fascinated by the arrival of arabesque elements in Western music. The 2016 Festival reflects the influence of oriental and exotic styles in a colourful variety of composers from our Classical patron to the present day; from Debussy’s penchant towards Gamelan music and the Moorish flavours in some Spanish guitar music, via Strauss’s Fairy Tales from the Orient to the Sān Gloria of this year’s Composer-in-Residence, Peter Louis van Dijk...


2015: Masquerade

Some 150 years after Mozart’s death, a mysterious bronze mask with the composer’s facial features appeared in a used goods store in Vienna. Was it real? Who made it? Where had it been all these years? 

Mozart passed away in the early hours of 5 December 1791. His sister-in-law Sophie Haibel, who was taking care of the ill composer, wrote in a letter that hours after Mozart’s death Count Joseph Deym, the owner of an arts and crafts workshop, rushed to Mozart’s deathbed and made a plaster cast of his face. He left the plaster cast to Mozart’s widow, Constanze, and made a bronze cast for himself. At some point, Constanze accidentally dropped and destroyed the plaster cast – the bronze cast disappeared, the trail gone cold from a Viennese used-goods store after the Second World War…


2014: Un' aura amorosa

In what must be one of Mozart’s best known and most beautiful arias, “Un’ aura amorosa” (from his opera Così fan tutte), Ferrando, one of the characters, suggests that “a breath of love from our treasures is sweet sustenance for our hearts. A heart nourished by hope and love has no need of a greater lure.” Well, if things were only that straightforward… 

I would like to welcome you very warmly to the sixth edition of the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival which will deal with all sorts of amorous fare – not only by Mozart, of course. The opera title Così fan tutte, by the way, literally means “Thus do all [women]” and is popularly used to mean “That’s what women are like”. Well, if things were only that straightforward…


2013: se vuol ballare - if you would dance

“Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino? – If you would dance, my little Count?” This is what Figaro asks, somewhat belligerently, in his famous cavatina from Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro. Written a mere three years before the French Revolution, the aria conveys Figaro’s intent to foil Count Almaviva’s womanizing. But at the same time it can also be read as a thinly veiled political attack on the power-wielding nobility of the time. 

The song is sung by Figaro upon discovering the Count’s ploys to exercize his recently reasserted feudal right of ius primae noctis, i.e., to spend a night with Figaro’s bride Susanna before the consummation of the couple’s marriage.

Well, none of this happened at the 2013 Johannesburg International Mozart Festival – but there was a lot of dancing! 


2012: quasi improvisando

“Improvisation? Anyone who plays anything worth hearing knows what he’s going to play, no matter whether he prepares a day ahead or a beat ahead”.

The 2012 edition of the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival certainly took a little longer than one day to prepare, let alone one beat. Nevertheless, Duke Ellington’s witty remark on the art of improvisation speaks volumes about the spontaneity of music-making we experienced at the 2012 JIMF. 


2011: On Wings of Song

“Tout finit par des chansons – everything ends in songs”, Beaumarchais wrote as his last line in The Marriage of Figaro. By contrast, in the 2011 edition of the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival everything began with songs.

With its theme “On Wings of Song” (after the eponymous lied by Felix Mendelssohn), the Festival took place between 27 January and 13 February, offering an exciting tribute to vocal music and to music inspired by vocal genres. The spectrum ranged from Mozart’s Requiem, via Schubert’s epic song-cycle Die Winterreise and African choral music, to cabaret songs by Weill and Eisler and back to a programme of operatic arias and duets by Mozart.  


2010: Musical Hemispheres

2010 – the eagerly awaited year in which South Africa hosted the Football World Championship – saw people from all “corners” of the world flock to the southern tip of Africa for this global sports event. Soccer aficionados from all “hemispheres” enjoyed the games, the beauty of South Africa’s landscapes and the hospitality of its people.

Following the 2009 highly successful premiere of the Johannesburg Mozart Festival as an international event, it was our “goal” to “score” a similar success in 2010 and to reflect on the idea of “hemispheres” and visitors to South Africa in musical terms.