Review of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Comment Off 53 Views

By Sharon Vacek

November 17, 2014

Opening night of Porgy and Bess at the Lyric Opera offered a delightful, heartfelt and passionate performance of this popular folk opera featuring the much-loved music of George and Ira Gershwin. Set in the fictitious African American community, Catfish Row, South Carolina in the 1950s, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess draws the audience in as the crippled beggar, Porgy and the seductive and drug-addicted Bess discover love and attempt to sustain it in a world torn apart by temptation, addiction and violence.

Act 1 opens peacefully in the courtyard with Clara singing an exquisite version of the familiar “Summertime” as a lullaby to her infant child while the men play craps. It might be summertime, but the living doesn’t remain easy for very long. Soon Crown and his current lover Bess arrive drunk and Crown ends up killing Robbins in a fit of rage after losing a game of craps. The crowd quickly disburses in anticipation of the police arriving and a distraught Bess (played by the alluring soprano Adina Aaron) is left alone seeking shelter. The only one who is willing to come to her aid is the lonely and crippled beggar Porgy (expertly played by celebrated bass-baritone Eric Owens). Something beautiful happens, and the audience can feel it, as these two broken souls connect. Soon Bess is refusing to indulge in the “happy dust” offered by dealer Sportin’ Life and the charismatic Porgy is happily professing that “there is no such thing as loneliness.” Their love continues to grow but is challenged by Bess’s attraction to her abusive former lover Crown (played by Eric Greene who is the perfect villain) as well as her struggle with addiction.

Life is a challenge for all the people of Catfish Row. They experience poverty as evidenced by Serena’s anguish about burial costs and in Porgy’s acceptance of his circumstances as he sings, “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin.” They battle nature in the powerful scene where the frightened townspeople gather together and pray for shelter from the hurricane which claims the lives of some of the men who were fishing. Gambling, drugs, alcohol and violence are ever-present. However, also present are an unwavering faith, a strong sense of community and a hope for a better life, which make the performance much more uplifting and enjoyable to watch.

The heaviness of the subject matter is also balanced with lighthearted humor like when Maria, “the matriarch of Catfish Row” chases the drug dealer Sportin’ Life out by singing “I Hates Yo’ Struttin’ Style.” Humor also prevails when Lawyer Frazier raises the fee for a divorce from one dollar to a dollar and a half when he finds out that Bess was never married to Crown because “it’s complicated.”

Another highlight of the performance is when Porgy and Bess declare their love with the touching song, “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.” A dramatic ending with a show of devotion leaves the audience wondering if love will possibly triumph.

 

##

Lyric Opera of Chicago
20 North Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
312-332-2244
lyricopera.org
#LyricPorgy

Monday, October 20, 2014

The triumphant all-American opera returns to Lyric
The Gershwins’
Porgy and Bess
by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward and
Ira Gershwin

Opens Monday, November 17 at Lyric Opera
13 performances through December 20

starring
Eric Owens, Adina Aaron, Jermaine Smith, Eric Greene,
Karen Slack,  Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, Norman Garrett, Gwendolyn Brown
Ward Stare/conductor, Francesca Zambello/ director,
Peter J. Davison/sets, Paul Tazewell/costumes, Mark McCullough/lighting,
Michael Black/chorus master, Denni Sayers/choreographer

Eric Owens (right) stars in PORGY AND BESS at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Photo: Terrence McCarthy / San Francisco Opera

CHICAGO – Lyric Opera of Chicago presents the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess in a revival of the acclaimed production from renowned director Francesca Zambello, conducted by Ward Stare. It opens on Monday, November 17 with 13 performances through Saturday, December 20. Performance dates are Nov. 17, 19, Dec. 2, 5, 8, 13, 16, and 20 at 7:30pm; and Nov. 23, 26, 28, Dec. 11 and 18 at 2pm.

Hailed by innumerable critics as the greatest American opera, George Gershwin’s masterpiece of 1935 has lyrics by Ira Gershwin (the composer’s brother) and Dorothy Heyward, and a libretto by Mrs. Heyward’s husband, DuBose Heyward. The opera is based on the 1927 Broadway play Porgy by Mr. and Mrs. Heyward and Mr. Heyward’s own novel of the same name, written in 1924.

Onstage in the opera Porgy and Bess, an entire community comes to life: the fictitious tenement called Catfish Row on the shore of Charleston, South Carolina. It is there that the lame Porgy (bass-baritone Eric Owens) meets and falls in love with the sultry Bess (soprano Adina Aaron, Lyric debut), girlfriend of the hulking Crown (baritone Eric Greene). Bess leaves Crown to live with Porgy but is susceptible to the drugs (“happy dust”) offered her by the devious Sportin’ Life (tenor Jermaine Smith). The cast also includes soprano Karen Slack (Lyric debut) as the devout Serena, soprano Hlengiwe Mhkwanazi (Lyric debut) as the endearing young mother Clara, contralto Gwendolyn Brown as the earthy Maria, and baritone Norman Garrett (Lyric debut) as Clara’s warmhearted husband Jake.

Porgy and Bess  will be conducted by Ward Stare and directed by Francesca Zambello. Peter J. Davison is set designer, Paul Tazewell is costume designer, Mark McCullough is lighting designer, Michael Black is chorus master, and Denni Sayers is choreographer and associate director.

Says Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director, “Lyric had such a great success with the company premiere of Porgy and Bess during the 2008-09 season that we decided to bring this magnificent work back for further performances in Francesca Zambello’s vibrant, revelatory production. Ward Stare conducts an almost totally new cast, including the incomparable Eric Owens in the title role.”

For tickets and information call (312) 827-5600 or go to lyricopera.org/porgy. Watch video and read articles about this production at lyricopera.org/InsidePorgy.

Follow the conversation on Twitter: #LyricPorgy.

The Nov. 17 opening night performance will be broadcast live on 98.7WFMT and streamed on wfmt.com starting at 7:15pm. For those listening to the broadcast, live mobile titles will be available at lyricoperalive.org.

Lyric Opera presentation. Generous sponsors are the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, Cherryl T. Thomas and Adrmore Associates, and Roberta L. and Robert J. Washlow, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Production owned by Washington National Opera.

Operagoers can also enjoy the exhibit DON GIOVANNI: Past to Present before curtain and during intermission of all Lyric performances. Located in the Opera Club Wine Cellar on the lower level of the Civic Opera House, this new exhibit showcases the 60-year history of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Lyric and pays tribute to Lyric’s brand-new production. It is free to all ticket holders and will on display through December.
About Lyric

Founded in 1954, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to Chicago and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form.

Lyric is dedicated to producing and performing consistently thrilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking opera with a balanced repertoire of core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works; to creating an innovative and wide-ranging program of community engagement and educational activities; and to developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.

Under the leadership of general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric strives to become the great North American Opera Company for the 21st century: a globally significant arts organization embodying the core values of excellence, relevance, and fiscal responsibility.

 

 

The triumphant all-American opera returns to Lyric
The Gershwins’
Porgy and Bess

Opens tonight Monday, November 17 at Lyric Opera
13 performances through December 20

A scene from PORGY AND BESS at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

CHICAGO – Lyric Opera of Chicago presents The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, conducted by Ward Stare  in a revival of the acclaimed production from renowned director Francesca Zambello. It opens on Monday, November 17 with 13 performances through Saturday, December 20. Performance dates are Nov. 17, 19, Dec. 2, 5, 8, 13, 16, and 20 at 7:30pm; and Nov. 23, 26, 28, Dec. 11 and 18 at 2pm.

Hailed by innumerable critics as the greatest American opera, George Gershwin’s masterpiece of 1935 has lyrics by Ira Gershwin (the composer’s brother) and Dorothy Heyward, and a libretto by Mrs. Heyward’s husband, DuBose Heyward. The opera is based on the 1927 Broadway play Porgy by Mr. and Mrs. Heyward and Mr. Heyward’s own novel of the same name, written in 1924.

Onstage in the opera Porgy and Bess, an entire community comes to life: the fictitious tenement called Catfish Row on the shore of Charleston, South Carolina. It is there that the lame Porgy (bass-baritone Eric Owens) meets and falls in love with the sultry Bess (soprano Adina Aaron, Lyric debut), girlfriend of the hulking Crown (baritone Eric Greene). Bess leaves Crown to live with Porgy but is susceptible to the drugs (“happy dust”) offered her by the devious Sportin’ Life (tenor Jermaine Smith). The cast also includes soprano Karen Slack (Lyric debut)as the devout Serena, soprano Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi (Lyric debut) as the endearing young mother Clara, contralto Gwendolyn Brown as the earthy Maria, and baritone Norman Garrett (Lyric debut) as Clara’s warmhearted husband Jake.

Porgy and Bess   is conducted by Ward Stare and directed by Francesca Zambello. Peter J. Davison is set designer, Paul Tazewell is costume designer, Mark McCullough is lighting designer, Michael Black is chorus master, and Denni Sayers is choreographer and associate director.

Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi is a current member and Gwendolyn Brown is an alumna of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, Lyric’s premier artist-development program that is currently celebrating its 40th season.

In addition to his onstage role as Porgy, Eric Owens is also a Lyric Unlimited Community Ambassador, which allows him to share his experiences as a performer to help break down barriers to participation in opera. Owens regularly participates in speaking engagements, panel discussions, master classes, and more at schools and community venues around Chicago. Launched in 2012, Lyric Unlimited is a long-term, evolving initiative that encompasses company activities that are not part of Lyric’s mainstage season. Its mission is to provide a relevant cultural service to communities throughout the Chicago area and to advance the development of opera by exploring how it can resonate more powerfully with people of multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests.

For tickets and information call (312) 827-5600 or go to lyricopera.org/porgy. Watch video and read articles about this production at lyricopera.org/InsidePorgy. Follow the conversation on Twitter: #LyricPorgy.

The Nov. 17 opening night performance will be broadcast live on 98.7WFMT and streamed on wfmt.com starting at 7:15pm. For those listening to the broadcast, live mobile titles will be available at lyricoperalive.org.

Lyric Opera presentation. Generous sponsors are the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, Cherryl T. Thomas and Ardmore Associates, and Roberta L. and Robert J. Washlow, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Production owned by Washington National Opera.

Operagoers can also enjoy the exhibit DON GIOVANNI: Past to Present before curtain and during intermission of all Lyric performances. Located in the Opera Club Wine Cellar on the lower level of the Civic Opera House, this new exhibit showcases the 60-year history of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Lyric and pays tribute to Lyric’s brand-new production. It is free to all ticket holders and will on display through December.
About Lyric

Founded in  1954, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great opera.  Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to Chicago and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form.

Lyric is dedicated to producing and performing consistently thrilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking opera with a balanced repertoire of core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works; to creating an innovative and wide-ranging program of community engagement and educational activities; and to developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.

Under the leadership of general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric strives to become the great North American Opera Company for the 21st century: a globally significant arts organization embodying the core values of excellence, relevance, and fiscal responsibility.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author

Editor of Don411.com Media website.
Use code TOKENFL2018 and get $10 cashback
Free Newsletter Updated Daily