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Cape Town Opera Is Bursting With Energy

October 23, 2009

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    October 23, 2009
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    Opera Carolina News

Cape Town Opera Is Bursting With Energy

THIS was the first full-length opera I’ve seen live, let alone one performed by a majority black cast – as all the pre-publicity for this production continuously highlighted.

I took my seat for the performance not really knowing what to expect other than a gritty tale of love on the streets set to Gershwin’s stirring jazz/blues score. I left feeling profoundly moved by the raw emotion of the story of Porgy and Bess and the considerable talent of Cape Town Opera.

This was the company’s first UK tour and the UK premier of Porgy and Bess saw Gershwin’s tale of life on the streets of South Carolina in segregated America moved to South Africa.

The ever-present threat of violence, from the white man and within the Catfish Row community, was an almost visible undercurrent running through the performance as the adults struggled to balance the highs of gambling, drinking and drugs with their ultimate belief in Doctor Jesus.

The spirituality in the mourning scenes was particularly moving, not least because of the beautiful harmonies from the chorus. The fishermen’s refrain, also speaking of the promised land, was another lyrical highlight.

The undoubted star of the show however was Porgy, played by Xolela Sixaba. His magnificent voice was clear and powerful despite spending the entire evening on his knees.

Sixaba brought heart-rendering emotion to the main narrative of the complex relationship between the cripple and the easy-living Bess (Lisa Daltirus). There was real chemistry between the pair on stage and their duets were simply beautiful.

Victor Ryan Robertson injected humour and light relief into the opera with his performance of Sportin’ Life, transforming him into a Spiv-like devilish character, with the dress sense of a wannabe American gangster from the prohibition age, ready to pounce on the slightest hint of a slip in Catfish Row’s delicate facade of decency and clean living.

This was a gutsy performance, which was bursting with energy and which smacked of realism and honesty from a relatively young opera company.

I was quickly sucked into the story by some masterful singing and transfixed by this interpretation of a tale which still has so much resonance in today’s society.

By Madeleine Brindley
Western Mail

To read the original article, visit the WalesOnline.