Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bess, Sei La Mia Donna Ora ...

Or as they say in English "Bess, you is my woman now ..."

Porgy and Bess programmeSaturday night was our regular subscription night at the Orchestra of the Accademia Ste Cecilia. As part of a big Jazz Festival happening at the Auditorium this month, they were presenting a concert suite of George Gershwin's 1935 folk opera Porgy and Bess. The Sala Ste Cecilia was almost full and the audience was an interesting mix of regular subscribers and jazz fans.

Conductor Wayne Marshall, a local favorite, had arranged a suite of numbers - vocal and instrumental - from Gershwin's groundbreaking opera. All the favorites were there - Summertime, It Ain't Necessarily So, I Got Plenty O'Nuttin', A Woman is a Sometime Thing - sort of like a highlights album. Four singers, Marshall conducting and on ragtime piano, the full orchestra, chorus and children's chorus gave us 90 minutes of some exciting, if loud, music making.

Marshall has Broadway experience and it showed but at times he tended to forget he was conducting a full symphony and not a pit band. The sound he got from the Accademia - though never less than musical - at times swamped both the singers and the audience. Rodney Clarke and Indira Mahajan, singing the lead roles, suffered the most from Marshall's enthusiasm, being at times totally inaudible. It would be unfair to judge either singer based on this performance because much of what they did was lost. Angela Renée Simpson and Ronald Samm in supporting roles were able to ride over the wall of sound with Samm (as Sportin' Life) and the chorus garnering cheers after a great version of "It Ain't Necessarily So."

And the glory of the evening was the chorus - two weeks ago they sang Mendelsson's Elijah, two weeks from now it will be Orff's Carmina Burana but Saturday night they were denizens of Catfish Row, Charleston, Sud Carolina (U.S.A.) as the programme told us. Initially there was the incongruity of an all white Italian chorus in their smart formals singing I see'd him in de mornin' wid his work clo'es on. But then is it anymore incongruous than watching an American chorus as Egyptians singing in Italian in Aida? They proved once again that they are one of the finest choral groups in Europe singing the great chorus pieces with style and a touch of American omph.

The audience response was enthusiastic and the applause went on for a good ten minutes at the end of the concert. Several opera houses - Parma and Palmero - have included Porgy in their recent seasons. As satisfying as it was to see this fine performance, it would be nice to see a fully staged performance here in Rome.

20 novembre - Santi Avventore, Ottavio e Solutore


Doralong said...

One of my all time favorites! Wish I'd have been there too!

evilganome said...

I was reminded of "The Age of Innocence" when Wharton wrote about "The Damnation of Faust" something to the effect that a French Opera, based on a German folk tale, sung by a Swedish soprano, had to be performed in Italian for the better understanding of the New York audience.