Porgy & Me

Porgy & Me

Porgy & Me

               Genre: Documentary
               Opera, touring, George Gershwin

with Gershwin’s classics on Tour

  George Gershwin’s opera Porgy & Bess is in many ways an exception in the repertoire of classical music – and not just musically. Firstly, the piece is the only American origin that was established for decades on the stages of this world. In addition, it offers the ideal career springboard for African-American singers who with few exceptions, have little chance to establish themselves in the opera houses of the world. For Gershwin stipulated that in the performance of his work – except for this concert performances – only African-American actors to use may come. And so the play thanks to ensure its success for years and decades, many careers, because there are always several productions anywhere around the globe on tour. From one of these tours is Susanna Boehm’s Porgy & Me documentary that accompanies the ensemble of the New York Harlem Theater.

Has Visually the film does not offer too much, which is primarily due the fact that the camera and the singers singer usually accompanied on trips by bus and is therefore limited to a few angles. In essence, we see the actors on stage as well as “talking heads” at various interviews where they talk about themselves, about their origin and their often rocky road to the opera stage, about their hopes and disappointments, and the still-pervasive resentment, which she are still exposed.

That the director, the actors here comes very close, is obvious, after all she is with Terry Lee Cook, who plays Porgy, but secretly dreams of performances in Wagner operas, married, the two have a their son. Nevertheless, Cook is not too much in the center of attention, even if he succeed with the most emotional scenes.

Are a little disappointing, however, the extended vocal passages from various performances, which lies less in the vocal brilliance of the singer, but rather because of the extremely honest staging which Porgy & Bess without any refraction an accumulation of romanticized stereotypes can be. Thus, the finding remains that Gershwin’s masterpiece even today is still full of sensitivity and timeliness, confined to the room behind the stage and the enlightening discussions with the actors. In the theater itself, the resentments and stereotypes are still clearly visible and at the same time firmly arrested in the worlds of traditional idea of the time.

In addition, we as viewers can learn anything about the history and the rationale for its decision Gershwin, Porgy & Bess perform exclusively by African-American singers, and as much about the eventful history of the Opera which was written at a time strict racial segregation in the United States. Backgroundwissen that would have loosened the alternating passages of opera scenes and interview a lot and enriched with additional elements. Without such details as the film turns a bit about themselves and emphasizes in particular the issue of racism at times but exaggerated manner. If we learn of Terry Lee Cook, that he would like Wagner-sing arias, but this is because of his skin color will probably never be able to realize, is performed at a little under the table, it is especially the dark color of his voice, his repertoire considerably. Elsewhere, however, when Cook reported difficulties in entering the UK, this leads back to resentment and more on the edge while admitting that his visa was not something wrong, one would have wished for a greater insistence by the filmmaker – which may also omitted because of the relationship with Cook.

Particularly in view of the changes in the situation of African-Americans and becoming more subtle forms of exclusion and racism would be – if only because of the enormous breadth of the opera – an update on the here and now strongly advised to dig themselves out the patterns of racism on the one hand and break the filtered perception of it, on the other side.

On the other hand, the question arises whether Porgy & Bess would have been so successful if it consistently always on the amount of time it would become a genuine political opera. Perhaps it would have done the film well, just put this dilemma even more in the center of the film and identify solutions. As it was, the feeling remains that the opportunity offered by Porgy & Bess , has become for many of the singers in a golden cage, from which each comes to breaking a daring undertaking. And that’s really a dilemma, which also reflects this film. For good or for evil.

(Joachim Kurz)

Title: Porgy & Me Country of production: Germany Year of production: 2009 Length: 86 (Min) of material: Piffl media

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