Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" - From Cambridge to Broadway (Part I)

As I was strolled through the theater district on Friday, I noticed the The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess marquee at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The "re-imagined" musical now playing in Cambridge begins previews on December 17th and officially opens on Broadway on January 12, 2012.

After Stephen Sondheim blasted this "re-imagined" Porgy and Bess in a letter to The New York Times earlier this month, there has been a lot of buzz about this musical, and now according to a New York Post
article, NY critics are racing north at hurricane speeds to Cambridge to review the production.

Now, Porgy and Bess is not without controversy. Many consider the original folk opera racist due to its images of impoverish hot-tempered gambling pimping, drug-taking African Americas singing in dialect (did I miss any stereotypes?). While stuck indoors this weekend (no thanks to the destructive Irene), I watched a DVD of the opera as conducted by The London Philharmonic and curiously titled The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess. Initially, I cringed at the dialect and was reminded of the
Black Heritage Trail tour I recently took while in Boston. The tour, which I highly recommend, includes a period in Boston history when black schools were forbidden to teach grammar. Why? To perpetuate the kind of dialogue featured in Porgy and Bess?

After a short period of time however, I loss myself in the intensity and passion of the opera.

So now we await what the critics have to say about the Diane Paulus production. However, what they and non-fans of the opera will not be able to criticize is that Porgy and Bess, first performed in Boston before it opened in NY over 75 years ago, is historic and has produced memorable music which have been made even more famous by Jazz greats.

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