Porgy & Bess at Edinburgh Festival Theatre 30-31 Oct
“What is so impressive and so touching is the authentic, courageous, committed singing and acting from the whole ensemble.” (Nürnberger Nachrichten 8 July 2008)
South Africa’s only repertory opera company, Cape Town Opera (CTO), makes its UK debut in October with nine fully-staged performances of the Gershwins’ landmark opera Porgy and Bess at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh and Wales Millennium Centre, and two semi-staged concert performances at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The opera will be conducted by American-born maestro David Charles Abell, one of Bernstein’s last protégés and widely acclaimed for his authoritative and lively readings of musical theatre as well as opera and concert works. The production is directed by CTO’s artistic manager, Christine Crouse with designs by Peter Cazalet and Michael Mitchell and lighting by Kobus Rossouw.
The singers of Cape Town Opera bring a unique emotional resonance to an immortal score that, ultimately, has its roots in Africa, where each community has its own traditional songs creating a musical narritive of daily life. Gershwin modelled his score on many types of folk song – jubilees, blues, praying songs, street cries, work songs and spirituals – that he blended with traditional arias and recitatives. Many of Cape Town Opera’s singers are not formally trained, but choral music and singing traditional folk songs is an integral part of their lives in South Africa’s townships.
“We have a very personal relationship with this opera,” comments Michael Williams, CTO’s general manager. “Our singers know the hardships of living in a community that is fraught with poverty, unemployment and violence. But the ultimate message in Porgy and Bess is one of survival over adversity and this makes the work particularly pertinent, given the recent history of South Africa .”
At CTO both talent and determination are channelled into developing professional singing careers through the CTO Voice of the Nation Studio and Voice of the Nation Vocal Ensemble (who performed in Cardiff in 2004 as part of the opening gala). Cape Town Opera celebrated its tenth anniversary in May 2009 having survived a decade as a non-profit organisation with no annual subsidy from the national government. Private individuals, trusts, businesses and the national lottery, along with a loyal opera audience, have ensured the company’s continued existence.
The UK tour is part of a growing programme of international touring that enriches the professional lives of CTO’s singers and enhances the company’s profile in its own country. Porgy and Bess played to soldout houses and won critical acclaim at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin and the new Oslo Opera House in Norway last year. A number of CTO’s leading singers have already gone on to study music overseas and build international careers.
The 2009 production of Porgy and Bess has been co-financed by the Wales Millennium Centre and the UK tour is supported by the Donald Gordon Foundation and managed by Askonas Holt Ltd.
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Fri 30 & Sat 31 October, 7.30pm / Sat 2.30pm
Tickets: £17.00 - £39.50
Box Office: 0131 529 6000