Sunday 31 December 2023


The 2023 edition of the yearly Opera Abuja was held at the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel on the 26th of November. Opera Abuja has been on for 16 years with the generous support of Transcorp Hilton Hotel and other corporate organisations. The Chair of this year's edition was Hon. Nawuba, Chairman of the National Assembly Library. 

The setting of this year's performance is the era immediately preceding World War II. Captain Vontrab, head of the Vontrab family set a very strict code of conduct for his seven adorable children after their mother's demise. The grand performance was a fusion of music, story-telling and journey into some tragic endeavours. Maria, an ebullient young nun from the Coventry, was already identified as non-conformist, multi-talented, avant-garde and adventurous by the Reverend Sisters. Maria was therefore the unanimous, natural choice when the 'disciplinarian' Captain Vontrab approached the Coventry for a Governess for his children while he would be away at the war front.

                                Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa's look at the AMEMUSO Opera

Then came Maria into Captain Vontrab's home. Maria was given strict instructions about how to be an effective Governess to the Captain's children. But as soon as the Captain left for the war front, things took a completely different turn. At first, there was resistance from the kids, one of them said rather ruefully and the others concurred: 'I don't need a Governess.' Then the storm was quite virulent one memorable night, akin to Abuja style of storm. The kids were afraid while seeking and indeed finding solace in the embrace of their brand new Governess, Maria, who they initially resisted. From then on, the emotional bond between Maria and the Captain's children blossomed!

   L-R: Mr. Islam & Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa on the red carpet @ the AMEMUSO Opera

It was to an unexpected surprise new configuration in his household that Captain Vontrab returned after his sojourn at the battlefield. First shocker: The children and indeed Maria, were not in the house when he returned. They were out in the woods! This obliterates the disciplined lifestyle instilled in the kids by the Captain: the children were never to leave the house under any circumstance, since they were home-schooled. They were to be summoned to the Captain's presence by the sound of their father's whistle. 2nd shocker: Maria returned with the kids from the woods to the house without any sense of remorse for flouting the Captain's orders. Maria even had the effrontery to challenge the Captain about his draconian administration of his household. No one had ever challenged the Captain frontally in his own home like that before!

But in all these, Captain Vontrab was already secretly admiring Maria's bravery and the enviable bond between her and his children. He was beginning to secretly fall in love with Maria! Could Maria also be surreptitiously admiring the Captain? The narrator said: 'Maria found another kind of love other than that of the Creator'...This new kind of love was too much for Maria to internalise. So, she ran away, back to the Coventry. When Mother Superior at the Coventry deciphered Maria's reason for escaping from the Captain's home, she told her pointblank: 'Here is not to be used as an escape. Maria, are you in love with the Captain? These walls aren't meant to shut troubles out...You must find yourself. Follow every rainbow till you find your dream.

                          The wedding of Captain Vontrab & Maria as captured by me on stage

Alas, Maria was sent back to Captain Vontrab's house. There, finally, their love blossomed and the children were the happier for it. For the kids, Maria, their brand new stepmother rescued them from the regimented and plastic existence to which they were subjected by their father before the arrival of Maria as their Governess and eventual stepmother. Even the stiff Captain returned to a softer life at home, though he was a Military Officer during World War II. Captain Vontrab rekindled his guitar-playing skills with the encouragement of his new and loving bride, Maria...And they lived happily ever after...The Chair of the Board of Trustees of AMEMUSO/Mandate Secretary, Women Affairs Secretariat, FCTA, Hon. Adedayo Benjamins-Laniyi gave the vote of thanks...

The infusion of authentic African music, Afrobeat into the mix of the Opera arrangement for the Sound of Music was the high point of the performance for me. This gave the 'theatrical delivery' a Nigerian underbelly which made me so elated. I look forward to the 2024 edition... 


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