Carmen's New Conquest

PER-ANDERS PETTERSSON for TIME

CAMPAIGN: Its backers hope U-Carmen stimulates black audiences to see South African films

An open-top bus lurches through the South African township of Khayelitsha, the opera Carmen blaring from its loudspeakers. Perched atop a row of plastic seats, Andries Mbali, 25, sings along in a rich baritone, while his companions dance in the aisle, stamping their feet on the metal floor and cheering wildly. The melodies are Georges Bizet's, familiar to opera fans around the world, yet the libretto is no longer in French, but rather the tongue-twisting clicks and cadences of the Xhosa language.

The story of Carmen has inspired a diversity of interpretations and locations over its 130-year history,...

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