MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Porgy and Bess Roundtable from PostClassical Ensemble

Following up on my post from the beginning of the month, here’s a distillation of PostClassical Ensemble’s 10 June zoom chat titled “Porgy and Bess Roundtable: What’s It About and Who’s Singing It?”

The panelists include George Shirley, the first African-American tenor to sing lead roles at the Metropolitan Opera, the bass-baritone Kevin Deas, one of the leading Porgys on today’s scene, Conrad Osborne, an expert in opera in performance, will also join in, and PCE founder Joseph Horowitz, with Bill McGlaughlin hosting. They also sample some historic Porgy recordings.

For more on this topic, here is Horowitz’s recent post: “Porgy Takes a Knee — Porgy and Bess and the American Experience of Race“:

“It’s interesting that Gershwin chose as his protagonist a person who’s on his knees. ‘Taking a knee’ has never been more relevant.”

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Filed under: African-American musicians, American music, George Gershwin, PostClassical Ensemble

PostClassical Ensemble’s More than Music Turns the Spotlight on Gershwin

PostClassical Ensemble — the “experimental orchestral laboratory” founded in 2003 by Joseph Horowitz and Angel Gil-Ordonez — has been reflecting on music’s role in society through a series called “More then Music,” which presents audio/video webcasts and associated zoom chats.

With the new challenges it poses to institutions we’ve taken for granted, the coronavirus pandemic has intensified the urgency of thinking about these issues of music and its social function — as opposed to abstracting the art into a “purely” aesthetic construct.

The latest edition of PCE’s More than Music series focuses on George Gershwin and a time of creative ferment that was tearing down conventional walls around self-described “serious” music.

PCE has just released the video linked above, The Russian Gershwin, featuring commentary by Joseph Horowitz (PCE Executive Producer) and Angel Gil-Ordóñez (PCE Music Director), with Bill McGlaughlin as the host.

There will be two follow-up zoom chats free and open to the public, both from 6 to 7pm EST. The first one, on 4 June, “A Gershwin Roundtable,” will be a discussion with Horowitz, Gil-Ordóñez, the pianist Genadi Zagor, and Mark Clague, director of the Gershwin Initiative at the University of Michigan. It will also include a live performance by the jazz artist Karrin Allyson.

The 10 June chat is titled “Porgy and Bess Roundtable: What’s It About and Who’s Singing It?” Along with Horowitz, Gil-Ordóñez, and Clague, special guests will include two pre-eminent singers who are authorities on Porgy and Bess: George Shirley, the first African-American tenor to sing lead roles at the Metropolitan Opera, and the bass-baritone Kevin Deas, one of the leading Porgys on today’s scene. Conrad L. Osborne, an expert in opera in performance, will also join in, and there will a discussion of historic Porgy recordings. Bill McGlaughlin hosts both zoom chats.

More details and sign-up links to the free zoom chats here.

Filed under: African-American musicians, George Gershwin, PostClassical Ensemble

Porgy and Bess in Seattle

An unforgiving work overload is keeping me from covering Seattle Opera’s just-opened Francesca Zambello production of Porgy and Bess, an opera I love. I did cover it the last time the company presented Gershwin’s work, in 2011, in a version directed by Chris Alexander — well before I had launched this blog, so I hope you will forgive me for posting that
piece here. Two of the singers cast in 2011 are back onstage for the current production: Mary Elizabeth Williams and Jermaine Smith):

Seattle’s version admirably digs beneath the surface of this elusive classic of American identity. It avoids sentimentalizing Porgy into a saint and brings more human focus to characters who can often become caricatures. But some pivotal moments are under-emphasized….

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Filed under: George Gershwin, review, Seattle Opera

Happy 4th of July

Happy Independence Day, courtesy of two children of immigrants.

Filed under: Bernstein, George Gershwin, New York Philharmonic

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