Last night I was lucky enough to go to the home of the English National Opera, London’s Coliseum, to see The Gershwins’ masterpiece, Porgy and Bess. I’ve been there lots and always enjoy the ENO productions, but it was a lovely change to see a production by another company. Welsh National Opera provided the orchestra, so it was fabulous to hear them too for the first time.
I’ve been wanting to see Porgy and Bess for years, having come to love so many of the songs…. There can’t be too many people who don’t recognise at least one song from the show, and ‘Summertime’ is one of the most recorded songs in the world, having been covered in almost every style, including jazz, rock, reggae, soul and samba. And so, in the company of my dear friend Jane, I watched this moving story whilst swaying and humming my way through ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’, ‘I Loves You Porgy’ and ‘I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’.
First performed in 1935, the opera Porgy and Bess was based on DuBose Heyward’s novel ‘Porgy’ and the subsequent play. Originally set in Charleston, South Carolina in the 1920s, Cape Town Opera‘s production moves the action seemlessly and aptly to apartheid-era Soweto. Marking 75 years since Gershwin’s untimely death, and to celebrate Cape Town Opera’s 10th anniversary in 2009, this vibrant and truthful production reflects the ubiquitous and enduring message of the story.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect if I’m honest… knowing so many of the songs in a more jazzy style, I couldn’t imagine how they would fit into a classical opera. And yet, all the well known songs, alongside some equally beautiful melodies, just seamlessly fuse into an amazing score which leads us perfectly through the action. I think this makes it a great first-opera-experience for anyone who would like to get into the genre, but isn’t quite sure if it’s for them. Sometimes, knowing a melody makes you enjoy the performance more, and so this would seem a great show to start with.
There are still tickets available from £19 here, from this evening to the last performance this Saturday evening.