Sunday 1 March 2020 at 6pm on RNZ Concert
Metropolitan Opera Season
THE GERSHWINS: Porgy and Bess
Angel Blue (Bess), Golda Schultz (Clara), Latonia Moore (Serena), Denyce Graves (Maria), Frederick Ballentine (Sportin' Life), Eric Owens (Porgy), Alfred Walker (Crown), Donovan Singletary (Jake), Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra conducted by David Robertson
Recorded in the Metropolitan Opera House, New York (Met Opera)
One of America’s favourite operas returns to the Met for the first time in nearly 30 years. James Robinson’s stylish production transports audiences to Catfish Row on the Charleston waterfront, vibrant with the music, dancing, emotion, and heartbreak of its inhabitants. David Robertson conducts a dynamic cast, featuring the sympathetic duo of Eric Owens and Angel Blue in the title roles and an all-star ensemble that includes Janai Brugger, Latonia Moore, Denyce Graves, Frederick Ballentine, Alfred Walker, and Donovan Singletary.
The world premiere of 'Porgy and Bess' was in Alvin Theatre, New York, in 1935. A supremely American operatic masterpiece and the most ambitious work by one of the nation’s greatest musical talents, 'Porgy and Bess' focuses on the joys and struggles of a black neighbourhood in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 20th century. The overall combination of music, word, and idea among a complex blend of Americana make this a unique and impressive work both within and beyond the operatic repertory.
George Gershwin (1898–1937) was one of America’s greatest composers—creating a diverse collection of works spanning the classical, jazz, and theatrical worlds—while his brother, Ira Gershwin (1896–1983), was one of the most prominent lyricists of American song. Novelist and poet DuBose Heyward (1885–1940) collaborated with his wife, Dorothy (1890–1961), to adapt his novel Porgy into a successful Broadway play, which later inspired the Gershwins’ opera.
The opera is set in slightly fictionalised versions of real places in and around Charleston, South Carolina. Catfish Row is a sea-side version of the actual Cabbage Row, a group of old mansions historically inhabited by the descendants of freed slaves.
Far beyond being a compendium of classic songs, the score of 'Porgy and Bess' maintains a level of musical unity and a rich, descriptive language that compares with the greatest operatic achievements. Much of the work’s dynamism comes from Gershwin’s explorations of the Gullah music of Tidewater Carolina, melded with his mastery of jazz and Eastern European Jewish roots to create a personal, idiomatic, brilliant, and thoroughly convincing musical canvas.