Opera Porgy and Bess plays the Salmar Classic on Saturday, Feb. 1. (Contributed)

Salmar Classic to to screen American classic Porgy and Bess

Opera rich with well-known, timeless tunes, plays Feb. 1

Gabriele Klein


Porgy and Bess, one of America’s favourite operas, comes to the Salmar Classic in a stylish new production by James Robinson on Saturday, Feb. 1.

The audience is transported to Catfish Row on the Charleston waterfront, vibrant with the music, dancing, emotion and heartbreak of its inhabitants.

This American masterpiece is the most ambitious work by one of its greatest musical talents. The story is based on the 1925 novel “Porgy” by DuBose Heyward, who with his wife Dorothy, also created a stage adaption. The original creative team was George Gershwin, his brother Ira, who wrote many of the lyrics, and the Heywards. The world premiere was at the Alvin Theatre, New York in 1935.

Porgy and Bess focuses on the joys and struggles of a black neighbourhood in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 20th century. It depicts, through music, word and idea, the story of a complex blend of Americana and is set in slightly fictionalized versions of real places. Catfish Row is a seaside version of the actual Cabbage Row, a group of old mansions historically inhabited by the descendants of freed slaves.

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The score creates a convincing and unified musical canvas through Gershwin’s explorations of the Gullah music of Tidewater Carolina, melded with his mastery of jazz and his Eastern European Jewish roots. The result is personal, idiomatic and brilliant.

Gershwin’s rich but complicated masterpiece is a story that resonates in its universality – the characters could be from any background, any language. And it contains a parade of timeless tunes, from “It Ain’t Necessarily So” to the most covered popular song of all time, “Summertime.”

David Robertson conducts a dynamic cast, featuring the sympathetic duo of Eric Owens and Angel Blue in the title roles and an all-star ensemble that includes Golda Schultz, Latonia Moore, Denyce Graves, Frederick Ballentine, and Alfred Walker.

Porgy and Bess starts at 9:55 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Salmar Classic. Run time is three hours and 25 minutes, including intermissions.

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Opera Porgy and Bess plays the Salmar Classic on Saturday, Feb. 1. (Contributed)

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