Funding problems have spelled an early end for Madiba: The African Opera.

An opera based on the life of Nelson Mandela has closed in South Africa after just three performances. Madiba: The African Opera was expected to tour internationally but the production’s management have announced the project's cancellation due to a failure of anticipated funding from the National Lottery.

The opera tells the story of Mandela’s early days through to his imprisonment and finally his 1994 inauguration as South Africa’s first black president. The production, mounted by the political icon’s grandnephew Unathi Mtirara, premiered last Friday at the State Theatre in Pretoria. All dates, including performances in Port Elizabeth and Qunu (Mandela’s final resting place) have since been postponed.

Nelson (Thabang Senekal) and Winnie (Sibongile Mngoma) in the wedding scene

“This is due to non-payment from Lotto,” said Mtirara. “We are still waiting for them to pay, we couldn’t continue pending that deal.”

The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund supports a number of art programs and charities throughout South Africa, but has been reported to “struggle to cover some applicants”. Funds are raised through the national lottery and then distributed to organisations that perform crucial social services.

Since 2001, the Trust Fund has granted more than 17.5 billion rand to a variety causes, but, on its website, the Democratic Alliance notes that the Trust Fund has not operated adequately since 2006. In the online report, an anonymous institution claims: “We have given up on the Lottery, we do not intend to depend on them at all and considering how much they have to give away, this is sad situation.”

Mandela, who died after a prolonged illness last December, has been the subject of numerous books and films. Last year’s critically acclaimed The Long Walk to Freedom was based on the anti-apartheid revolutionary’s memoir and starred Idris Elba. Meanwhile, The State Theatre confirmed the cancellation of Madiba: The African Opera, but refused to provide any further details.