Tag: “Porgy and Bess”

R.I.P. Diahann Carroll, 84, Groundbreaking Actress and Tony Award Winner

 

Diahann Carroll (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

According to the Los Angeles Times, Diahann Carroll, star of stage and screen who changed the course of television history as the first African American woman to star in a TV series (1968’s ground-breaking sitcom “Julia”) and to win a lead actress Tony Award, has passed away. She was 84.

The Oscar-nominated actress and breast cancer survivor, who also starred in “Paris Blues” with Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, primetime soap “Dynasty” and “White Collar,” died of cancer, her daughter Suzanne Kay said Friday.

Born Carol Diahann Johnson in 1935 in the Bronx, Carroll moved to Harlem with her parents at a young age. With their support, she enrolled in dance, singing and modeling classes and attended Music and Art High School with Billy Dee Williams, who would later costar with her in “Dynasty.” By 15, Carroll was modeling for Ebony, and by 18 she got her big singing break after winning the televised talent show “Chance of a Lifetime” in 1954.

Carroll debuted as an actress in 1954’s Oscar-nominated adaptation of “Carmen Jones,” a retelling of the Bizet opera with an all-black cast alongside Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte and Pearl Bailey. In 1959, she headlined the musical “Porgy and Bess” with Dandridge, Sidney Poitier and Sammy Davis Jr.

Carroll was nominated for a lead-actress Oscar for her turn as a single mother in the 1974 comedy “Claudine” opposite James Earl Jones, and earned a Tony Award in 1962 for Richard Rodgers’ “No Strings.”

In the late 1960s, Carroll was cast in “Julia,” the enormously successful NBC sitcom that featured her as a war-widowed nurse raising a son.

Carroll won a Golden Globe for female TV star and a nomination for best TV show, among other nods. She also earned a lead actress in a comedy Emmy nomination in 1969. Because the show was sponsored by toymaker Mattel, she served as the model for one of the first black Barbie dolls and found her likeness plastered on a variety of merchandise, including lunch boxes and coloring books.

To read more: https://www.latimes.com/obituaries/story/2019-10-04/diahann-carroll-dead

 

NY Metropolitan Opera to Hire All-Black Chorus for Fall Revival of “Porgy And Bess”

“Porgy and Bess” leads Eric Owens and Angel Blue (via metopera.org)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

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.