The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess, Cape Town Opera, Royal Festival Hall, London
Tuesday 27 October 2009
After Trevor Nunn’s futile attempt to turn The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess into a book and song musical how bracing to return to the through-sung original where only the whites get to speak – or rather are denied the gift of song.
After Trevor Nunn’s futile attempt to turn The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess into a book and song musical how bracing to return to the through-sung original where only the whites get to speak – or rather are denied the gift of song. But there’s an added edge to this touring Cape Town Opera presentation roaring semi-staged into London before heading north to Edinburgh later this week and it comes from an abiding sense of streetwise familiarity. There may be more Jewish than African music in Porgy and Bess but the aspiring spirit of community runs deep in the piece and this company doesn’t just recognise but live it.
There really is no substitute for the kind of collective fervour they bring to Robbins’ wake, Arline Jaftha’s searing Serena dredging the anguished chest tones in “My Man’s Gone Now”, the chorus ensuring a rousing send-off for the train leaving for the Promised Land. That’s where George Gershwin really plugged in his hotline to the Gospel experience and made it swing.
Conductor David Charles Abell nailed this and every other hot-spot with keenness and self-evident love, steering the tightened narrative with a great sense of its imperative whilst relishing through his instinctive feeling for tempo-rubato the score’s aching lyricism. He might have made even more of the huge moment where Porgy first opens his door to the outcast Bess and really let his three trumpets rip through the orchestral pay-off to “There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon for New York” but with a band of precisely the same proportions as that which occupied the pit at the opera’s premiere there was no doubting the authenticity.
The voices gave credence to that feeling. No musical theatre piece entices us in with anything quite as ravishing as “Summertime” and Pretty Yende, true to her name, was special in it. What a talent she is. Then there was Lisa Daltirus’ Bess, opulent and then some, embracing the arching phrases of the two great love duets, the perfect complement to Xolela Sixaba’s Porgy – rich, weathered, craggy. Victor Ryan Robertson’s Sportin’ Life had the ringing money notes to turn any weak woman’s head while Miranda Tini’s mountainous Maria saw him off, and how, with her “rap” prototype “I Hates Your Struttin’ Style”. Not that you could entirely catch her drift. The evening’s one serious problem was word clarity.
Still there was something deeply affecting about the way in which this ensemble pulled together and as they whooped their traditional encouragement to Porgy setting off on his impossible mission you really believed he might actually make it to New York.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
- 2 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
- 4 Alex Salmond: 'The rocks would melt with the sun before I'd ever set foot in the House of Lords'
- 5 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned into a PR disaster
Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written
Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since TV series ended in 2004
Friends 20th anniversary: Six things we wouldn't have without influential comedy series
Doctor Who, Time Heist, review: Keeley Hawes is marvellous but the Doctor is the real villain
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God