ENO’s Porgy and Bess: the raves roll inmain
Slipped Disc published the first review at midnight. Now other media are starting to flow:
Richard Morrison in the Times:
… by far the biggest thrills in this new English National Opera production are when the specially recruited chorus hurl out these gloriously sonorous affirmations of Christian faith. It’s like the best gospel choir you’ve ever heard, and it reminds you how brilliantly, in their 1935 masterpiece, those white Jewish brothers George and Ira Gershwin succeeded in evoking (or, in today’s loaded jargon, “appropriating”) the faith and music of African-Americans.
And the second most thrilling thing about ENO’s staging is the quality of the solo singing from this ensemble. It’s as if a whole generation of black singers, drawn from Africa and America as well as the UK, are collectively seizing a (still shamefully rare) chance to shine in a leading opera house.
Tim Bano in The Stage:
Eric Greene’s Porgy is great, so is Nicole Cabell’s Bess – though she doesn’t quite cut through above the orchestra, her consonants and clarity get lost – but this isn’t really a showcase for them, it’s a team effort, and what a team.
Ivan Hewitt in the Telegraph:
George Gershwin’s only opera finally comes to ENO, in a lavish co-production with the all-black cast that its creators stipulated. It pleases the eye, and delivers knock-out choruses, sassy orchestral playing under conductor John Wilson, and heart-warming renditions of the big melodies such as “Summertime”. So a hit is pretty well guaranteed.
Michael Church in the Independent:
From the moment when Nadine Benjamin launches into her sweet rendition of “Summertime”, Gershwin’s bewitching string of solos and duets comes over with assurance; one of its high points is a snatch of vocal grace from Nozuko Teto as the Strawberry Woman. Playing under John Wilson’s direction, the orchestra valiantly honours Gershwin’s ambition to combine the drama and romance of Carmen with the beauty of Die Meistersinger.
Mark Shenton in London Theatre:
…what ENO can also bring to it is thrilling musicianship, too, with its resident orchestra under the powerful baton of John Wilson, and a truly massive cast. There are 23 named characters, plus a chorus of over 40, plus six additional actors and eight additional kids. You don’t get this in the West End (not even in 42nd Street).
And it’s downright astonishing that ENO have assembled a company of international black singers of such strength: not that they don’t exist (they clearly do!), but that they’ve gone to the trouble to cast their net so far and wide, including America, South Africa and Britain.
From the plaintive, heartbreaking rendition of “Summertime” with which ENO Harewood artist Nadime Benjamin opens the show as Clara, to the stunning and heartbreaking title performances of Eric Greene and Nicole Cabell, it is performed with alternating notes of tenderness and fury.
Boyd Tonkin on theartsdesk:
This cast, though, shows terrific strength in depth. From Latonia Moore’s commanding gospel fervour as Serena to Donovan Singletary’s smoothly forceful Jake, Catfish Row emerged as a slum crammed with stars. It’s worth pointing out that South African singers took no fewer than five character parts, and they all excelled – whether Nozuko Teto’s strawberry seller or Njabulo Madlala’s Jim. At times, this almost felt like a Cape Town Opera benefit night. Their welcome presence proved again what an extraordinary nursery for the whole world of music theatre has developed at the tip of Africa.