by Emily Cox
People seem to either love opera or feel like they should love it. For the would be lovers of operas the inaccessibility of the genre (even when the lyrics are in English, deciphering them can be tough) has been lessened recently by things such as projected lyrics, and opportunities to see good productions at local movie theaters or ball parks. Perhaps the best way to become an actual opera lover is to see a world-class production of the most accessible opera for American audiences: Porgy and Bess which currently playing at the SF opera.
Cocaine, crime and, racism -- sadly a lot remains the same since Gershwin wrote the piece over seventy years ago. As highlighted by Cedric’s excellent interview with Eric Owens (Porgy in the SF production), many of the themes in Porgy and Bess have a timelessness about them. Although the tickets are hard to come by (currently sold out, so hit craigslist, or try for some of the stand by options), they are worth the effort. One thing about the opera that makes it especially appealing is the familiarity of the music. Although “Summertime” is the most recognizable song (having been sampled by Sublime and others), many of the other songs also have permeated American music in the last seventy years. The SF Opera’s production includes a surprisingly large chorus, which conveys an excellent sense of the community surrounding the main characters, in the way they judge and then embrace Bess and Porgy. In addition to amazing performances by the singers playing Porgy, Bess, Crown, and Sporting Life, many of the stand out moments in the three hour production are shorter arias by secondary characters.