According to washingtonpost.com, The Metropolitan Opera in New York plans to hire an all-Black outside chorus for its first presentation in nearly thirty years of ”Porgy and Bess,” which opens the Met’s season on September 23.
Performances of “Porgy and Bess,” which premiered in 1935, are licensed by the Gershwin family, which specifies an all-black cast. Written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, and DuBose Heyward and Dorothy Heyward, “Porgy” depicts a man living in Catfish Row, a poor, Black community in Charleston, South Carolina.
When the Met originally presented “Porgy” in 1985, it hired an outside chorus then too. At that time, there were three only Black members of the Met’s regular chorus of 81. That number today is six Black members in a group of approximately the same total now, the Met said.
“I think the Met is regarded as an institution that is colorblind when it comes to casting,” Met general manager Peter Gelb said. “We have many African-Americans and other black artists who are appearing on our stage in major roles.”
The Hungarian State Opera created controversy last year when it presented an unauthorized production with a largely white cast.
Performers Eric Owens and Angel Blue (pictured above) head the opening-night cast, which will be conducted by David Robertson and includes Denyce Graves, Latonia Moore, Golda Schultz and Ryan Speedo Green.
To see video of Owens and Blue talking about the upcoming production, click here.
Ella Fitzgerald, who would have turned 100 today, was one of the most beloved and versatile singers of the 20th century. In a career that spanned six decades, Fitzgerald recorded hundreds of songs, including definitive versions of many standards. Along the way, she influenced generations of singers.
But the first thing that strikes you about Fitzgerald is that voice.
Cécile McLorin Salvant, who won a Grammy last year for Best Jazz Vocal Album, says a combination of qualities made Fitzgerald’s voice unique. “When you hear the tone of her voice — which has kind of a brightness, kind of a breathiness, but it also has this really great depth, and kind of a laser-like, really clear quality to it — it hits you,” she says.
Salvant, 27, says she learned to sing jazz standards by listening to Fitzgerald’s versions.
“I remember being 17 and living in France and feeling really homesick and wanting to go back to Miami, and listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,’ ” Salvant says. “And I would listen to that all day. All day. For, like, weeks. And it felt — it created a home for me.”
Fitzgerald had perfect pitch, impeccable diction and a remarkable sense of rhythm. And it all came naturally to her, as she told the CBC in 1974. “What I sing is only what I feel,” she said. “I had some lady ask me the other day about music lessons and I never — except for what I had to learn for my half-credit in school — I’ve never given it a thought. I’ve never taken breathing lessons. I had to go for myself, and I guess that’s how I got a style.”
That style was an immediate hit. Fitzgerald was discovered at an amateur contest and began her professional career when she was only 16, singing with the Chick Webb Orchestra at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. When she was 21, she became internationally famous with a hit record based on a nursery rhyme, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.”