August 21, 2011 |
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Porgy and Bess has so many different past lives, you never know if the latest one - a storm-inducing American Repertory Theater mounting starring Audra McDonald that began performances Wednesday - is a progression or a regression. Although soundly conceived as a grand opera, George Gershwin's 1935 masterpiece contains so many breakout tunes that Porgy and Bess has led a double life. It thrived on Broadway and similar venues into the mid-1970s, when a revival by the Houston Grand Opera showed audiences that it's the Great American Opera.
April 27, 2001 |
The great American opera began, quite appropriately, as a bit from the police blotter. The seeds of Porgy appeared in the Charleston News & Courier in March of 1924: "Sammy Smalls, who is a cripple and is familiar to King Street, with his goat and cart, was held for the June term of Court of Sessions on an aggravated assault charge. It is alleged that on Saturday night he attempted to shoot Maggie Barnes at number four Romney Street. " Porgy never took a shot at Bess, but something in the character of Sammy Smalls - who tried to flee police in his wagon - appealed to DuBose Heyward.
April 22, 2001 |
George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess wouldn't be so controversial if it didn't so insistently demand to be loved. The opera's ecstatic love songs and sassy showstoppers have all but entered the realm of folk song in American culture. But the story they're attached to, featuring racial stereotypes light years from The Cosby Show, hasn't had an easy ride into the 21st century. Soprano Leontyne Price left a star-making Porgy and Bess tour swearing off Catfish Row for the rest of her career.
October 27, 2011 |
NEW YORK - As deliberate as Audra McDonald is about picking songs for her concerts, what she says in between singing them is anything but considered. "I just talk, which sometimes is good, and sometimes is not good at all," she says, laughing. "I find that keeps me at my most honest, which then keeps me in the right frame of mind for each song. " The four-time Tony Award winner has even surprised herself by suddenly talking about shoes or what she ate for lunch. "For some people, it's like, 'Oh, dear.
June 14, 2002 |
GERSHWIN'S "PORGY AND BESS. " At Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 52nd Street and Parkside Avenue, 8:30 tonight and tomorrow. $38-$58, 215-893-1999. PUCCINI'S "IL TABARRO. " Opera North, Mandell Theater, 33rd and Chestnut streets, 4 p.m. Sunday. $40, 215-843-9880. Gershwin's beloved grand opera "Porgy and Bess" is a pinnacle of American music, with as many hummable and memorable tunes as the arias of Verdi's day. Despite the strict conditions and roadblocks from the Gershwin estate, and the logistics of mounting large productions, the work has become a sure-fire moneymaker well worth the grand-scale effort.
February 21, 2014 |
If you know only the rich Gershwin music and gorgeous songs of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess , you might be surprised, as I was, when you actually see this opera-turned-Broadway musical, currently on national tour and in Philadelphia through Sunday. Touted as a radical reinvention and updating of the sacred 1935 show, the surprise for me was in how dated it seemed and how little I was moved by the characters and their plight. Never mind the controversy about altering the Gershwins' opera, which Stephen Sondheim famously weighed in on, leaving scorched earth beneath director Diane Paulus' feet; never mind the treatment of a black community that seems to flirt with racist parody.
June 17, 2002 |
For all of its lyrical radiance, Porgy and Bess should only be done when the production, casting, sensitivity to racial stereotypes, and astrological chart of its author, George Gershwin, are in the proper alignment. If not, audiences are punished by a long, badly paced evening that hails from what can seem like an obscure milieu, the now-faded Gullah culture of 1930s South Carolina African Americans. That considered, nothing - not even the weather - looked promising Saturday at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts where a relatively low-budget touring production of Porgy and Bess played for two nights.
January 14, 2012 |
NEW YORK - The immensely satisfying Porgy and Bess that opened in a Broadway revival Thursday night is not your grandma's P&B . In a controversial makeover that has ended up neither controversial nor very much made over, what you get is a compelling and confident mixture of opera and stage sense that drives the music as well as the story. Some people - most notably Steven Sondheim - protested after news last summer that Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks ( Topdog/Underdog)
February 3, 1998 |
It's been called a humiliating cartoon of African American life, a typical example of white put-down. It's been criticized for being amateurish musically and embarrassing socially. Yet whatever grumbles and groans have risen from black listeners, white audiences, and opera lovers of all stripes, George and lyricist Ira Gershwin's Porgy and Bess has brushed past them all to be the one and only, the greatest, American opera. Now, in George Gershwin's centennial year, performers, scholars, writers and people who knew the composer look at the work anew in Porgy and Bess : An American Voice, 10 p.m. tomorrow on Channel 12. The 90-minute show is not a performance, but an intriguing look at the opera and its message, narrated by actress Ruby Dee. Amazingly, the producers found and interviewed Anne Brown and Todd Duncan, who sang the title roles in the opera's 1935 Broadway premiere.
April 27, 1987 |
Athens, Ohio - They warned me that James E. Alsbrook is a hard man to argue with. That probably has something to do with the fact that he stored up an immense amount of knowledge on his way to becoming professor emeritus here at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. This is Communications Week at OU, and an impressive list of journalists are in attendance - including Sander Vanocur of ABC, syndicated columnist James J. Kilpatrick and Nate Polowetzky, Associated Press's assistant general manager for foreign news.