To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

R and I just got back from the opera. See if you can guess what it was.

Me: "I know Robbins' wife loved him and all, but she was trying to save money for their burial and he kept gambling it away. Ibedanged if I'd work my butt off trying to bury him. I believe I'd let the medical students have him."

R: "I know you would."


R: "And let him be scattered."

Me: "Yeah."


The opera is Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess", of course. It's a bit controversial these days. A lot of black performers don't like it and don't want to do it. One sees why.

But it was a great performance. The featured singers were good, but the entire cast drew us into the story. I suppose any operatic story has its majorly flawed character(s). In this case, Porgy has the physical flaw: he's a cripple of some unspecified kind, and he spends the entire performance kneeling on the floor or on a little cart that he can wheel himself around on. But Bess has the more serious flaw: she's addicted to cocaine and to an abusive relationship with Crown. Porgy is drawn to her, he stands up for her with the church women, and he shelters her when she needs him. And she is drawn to his goodness and his love for her, but ultimately it's not enough. She leaves him for a life, one supposes, of prostitution and drug abuse in New York. To quote Jake, "A woman is a sometime thing." (A bit of irony there, because when Jake's boat is seen to have capsized in the hurricane, Jake's wife, Clara, hands her baby off to Bess and runs out to find him, and is lost in the storm. Clara is not a sometime thing for Jake.)

There are some cringe-inducing moments. The people who live in Catfish Row love Porgy, respect him, and look to him for leadership in some ways. But they plan a picnic that he will not be able to attend, and in his presence they invite Bess and tell her that "everybody" will be there. Their thoughtless cruelty is pointed up also in a little song he sings about how lonely he is. During this song you see the whole ensemble on the stage, but they're kind of frozen, while the spotlight is on him. It's to communicate the fact that his loneliness is something they could see if they would just look at him and think about the way he lives his life, but they can't or don't want to. Other cringe-inducing moments involve the white folks. They don't sing, they talk; which I suppose is to point up how colorless they are. The black folks have to say "boss" and "sir", which is authentic for the time period, I'm sorry to say.

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