Shona Opera Tapiwa

Tapiwa: An Opera in Shona language

“I have been commissioned by Artists in Action in Harare, Zimbabwe, to compose the score for an opera entitled ‘Tapiwa’. It is based on a two-hundred year-old legend involving a dispute concerning a woman (Tendai) not being able to produce a child by her husband (Tambo). The opera opens with discussion about her being returned to her village. A devious spirit medium (Svikiro) plots to have his way with Tendai by announcing that she is dedicated to the River God (Njuzu). After the dedication, she ‘miraculously’ produces a child (Tapiwa). But the rains have failed, there is drought and the people of the village blame their misfortune on three-year-old Tapiwa whom they accuse of being a witch. They shun and marginalise her and subsequently stone her to death.


The opera is the first in Shona, a Zimbabwean language spoken by over 70% of the people in this country. It is in two acts and based on a two-hundred year old story from the Shashe River near Great Zimbabwe Ruins. The libretto is by Susan Hains, a local producer and director and the translation is by Chirikure Chirikure, a poet and musician of note. I was asked to compose the score because of my long-term experience with Shona music which has involved some intensive study”. (Keith Goddard: Application for temporary resident composer at the University of Graz).


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