Porgy and Bess at the English National Opera, Conducted by John Wilson, Fall 2018

In a podcast interview for the English National Opera, this is what my bonny had to say:

“There are very few pieces I can say I’ve been waiting all my life to conduct, and this is one of them. In my, kind of, college years or whenever that was, I got the Simon Rattle LP and I kind of wore out the groove of those records and had to buy ‘em on CD…”

Of course it’s known for the hit tunes that have been extracted from it, but it’s much more than that… And I would even say that the most interesting music in the opera is the ariosos, the small pieces which link everything together and the incidental music… It’s really very ambitious… It’s George Gershwin at his most inventive, and as Gershwin was arguably the greatest tunesmith of the twentieth century, you’re looking at melodic material from the very very top drawer…”

ENO Porgy and Bess

Said The Spectator: “The thrill of musical recognition as the curtain rises on an unfamiliar world is replaced by astonishment at the dramatic instinct that allows Gershwin to expend a melody like that before his story has even started, in the certain knowledge that what follows can, and absolutely will, live up to what for any composer other than Gershwin would be a once-in-a-lifetime inspiration…

“Director James Robinson has grasped two essentials: firstly, that with an opera which is still far from being a repertoire piece, it doesn’t pay to muck about with the setting and spirit…

“Or perhaps it’s just the generosity and compassion of Gershwin’s score, and the alternating dazzle and tenderness of the ENO orchestra under John Wilson.

All that energy, all that style and all that loving but unobtrusive care for the music’s inner voices merely served what Wilson has always insisted is his overriding artistic goal: to find a sound that lets the music speak.

Porgy and Bess at the London Coliseum, produced by the English National Opera, closes with a matinee on the 17th.

Tunesmith. Sheesh.


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