Reassessing ‘Porgy and Bess’ as an opera

Let’s just say it grows in my estimation every time I hear or see the Metropolitan Opera’s production.

There’s so much packed into its 3¼ hours that the full story can seem unwieldy and overwhelming, but I’m thinking maybe it actually needs to be longer, have more air to allow digestion, with a dinner intermission and perhaps jazz dance/combo interludes inserted at key points in the narrative.

Porgy is not simply the best American opera to date, contrary to the Vienna dismissal of it as a “folk” opera, but, yes, I’d now place it among the top ten ever, in a global view. The grander the reach, the more likelihood of imperfections. Guess where I am on that spectrum?

Quite simply, has any other produced so many hit tunes, especially as jazz standards? Composer George Gershwin held Georges Bizet as an idol, yet has anyone else spawned so many classic offerings from a single stage work? Not even Bizet, nor anyone else I can think of. Just a single hot tune would be considered success. And his have proved incredibly flexible and addictive.

Gershwin had already had a string of Broadway stage successes, but he wasn’t resting on his laurels. No, he agonized over this work and his previously stifled artistic visions. Make that ambitions.

Has anyone else so successfully addressed the realities of drug addiction or prostitution?

Courtesan, as in La Traviata, seems downright respectable in comparison. Bess is raw.

Does anybody else agree Eric Owens and Angel Blue deserve Tonys and Oscars for their performances?


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