This glorious performance by Cape Town Opera of the George Gershwin masterpiece had enough swagger and verve going for it to raise the roof.
Rarely have I heard such wonderful singing during all my years of reviewing for the Birmingham Post, and I would say that the company singing of the spiritual element which Gershwin brings to a ravishing score, left no emotional chord untouched in a crowded theatre.
This was performance unity given to us in a sensational way.
Everything cohesed smoothly and as the great solos faded (“Summertime”, “Bess You Is My Woman Now”, “It Ain’t Neccessarily So”) and the company singing moved in to develop the various themes, life on Gershwin’s Catfish Row, soared to a crescendo as beautifully-integrated choreography, music and high-powered voices reflected the joy these poverty-stricken people found in simply being alive.
The setting was a sort of cross-section of a beat-up, scaffolded, tenement house - once, no doubt, very beautiful, but as we see it in 1970s apartheid dominated Soweto, (where director Christine Crouse has set the production) it is merely a memory of what once was- an element of decay which runs through DuBose Heyward’s original novel: “Porgy” which inspired Gershwin in the first place.
Crouse’s Bess (the beautiful, highly accomplished TsakaneValentine Maswanganyi) and her Porgy ( the magnificent Xolela Sixaba) are real people, and your involvement with them is total.
Sixaba is unforgettable and Maswanganyi’s Bess, sniffing her packets of “happy dust”, leaves you breathless.
When she abandons Porgy and leaves finally for New York, she is unlikely to find little beyond tragically brutal sexual exploitation.
But mention must also be made of Aubrey Lodewyk’s intelligent, beautifully-sung Jake, Victor Ryan Robertson’s seductive Sporting Life and Philisa Sebeko’s intensely moving Clara.
But every performer singing with drive and pulse, gets across to the audience in an incomparable way.
They richly deserved their standing ovation.