Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Check out these exhibitions for all things 'Porgy and Bess'

A continuing celebration

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 2:00 PM

Need more Porgy and Bess in your life? If you missed the two public simulcasts of the opera, and you didn't manage to snag tickets to the show during Spoleto, fear not. There are Porgy and Bess exhibits around town that take a closer look at the Charleston-based opera.

"Porgy and Crown, Superimposed," by Kara Walker. The image's description reads: "Porgy and Crown are the two men who vie for Bess's affection in 'Porgy and Bess.' By superimposing their profiles, Walker underscores Porgy and Crown's dramatic opposition throughout the opera." - CONNELLY HARDAWAY
  • Connelly Hardaway
  • "Porgy and Crown, Superimposed," by Kara Walker. The image's description reads: "Porgy and Crown are the two men who vie for Bess's affection in 'Porgy and Bess.' By superimposing their profiles, Walker underscores Porgy and Crown's dramatic opposition throughout the opera."

Last week we got a sneak peek of the Gibbes' reopening, along with its newest special exhibitions, The Things We Carry and Beyond Catfish Row: The Art of Porgy and Bess. Both exhibitions will be on display until Oct. 9, so you can soak in the history of Gershwin's famed opera long after Spoleto leaves town. Beyond Catfish Row features works by American realist George Biddle, American modernist Henry Botkin, and contemporary artists Kara Walker and Jonathan Green, who designed the set and costumes for Spoleto's version of Porgy and Bess.

The original libretto. - CONNELLY HARDAWAY
  • Connelly Hardaway
  • The original libretto.

We recommend checking out a curator-led tour of Beyond Catfish Row on June 9, starting at 2:30 p.m. Led by the curator of exhibitions, Pam Wall, this tour is included with the price of museum admission, $12 for adults and $6 for kids.

The Charleston Library Society hosts Porgy: Treasures From the Vault, an exhibition that includes the original handwritten manuscript and typescript of DuBose Heyward's first novel, Porgy. Other editions of Porgy are on display, as well as a program from the 1942 New York revival. And, according to CLS, Dubose Heyward may have written part of Porgy in the library's main room. The exhibition will be open until June 12.

CofC's Addlestone Library also has a Porgy and Bess exhibition currently on displayPorgy & Bess: A Charleston Story, featuring rare manuscripts and art. Check it out through August.

A model of the set of the 1970 and 1985 Charleston productions of “Porgy and Bess,” as designed by Emmett Robinson, on display now in Addlestone Library. - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • A model of the set of the 1970 and 1985 Charleston productions of “Porgy and Bess,” as designed by Emmett Robinson, on display now in Addlestone Library.

The exhibition is partially inspired by a new book, Porgy & Bess: A Charleston Story, and yesterday the library hosted a lecture and book signing about the newly published book. Written by Karen Chandler, Damon Fordham, Pam Wall (the Gibbes' aforementioned curator of exhibitions), and more, the book provides insight into both Gershwin's opera, as well as the city of Charleston itself. You can buy the book here. 

The Wells Gallery on Kiawah will feature paintings by Jonathan Green, Porgy and Bess' set and costume designer, through June 12. The gallery will feature original oil paintings by the Lowcountry artist, including the design for this year's Spoleto poster, "Harvest Gathering."

Jonathan Green's "Harvest Gathering" - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Jonathan Green's "Harvest Gathering"

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Cecile McLorin-Salvant lends her critically-acclaimed, Grammy-winning voice to Spoleto

In Tune

Posted by Vincent Harris on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 12:20 PM

McLorin-Salvant - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • McLorin-Salvant

Cecile McLorin-Salvant's voice is a stunning instrument. Impossibly clear, devastatingly powerful, almost casually virtuosic, with a range that can slide from wine-cellar low to skyscraper high, sometimes in the same breath. Her most recent album, 2015's For One To Love, is such a confident display of jazz talent that it's difficult to believe she's only 26 years old. Her interpretations of standards by Oscar Hammerstein, Bacharach, and David and Leonard Bernstein are alternately playful, menacing, and heartbreakingly sweet. It seems that she can slip into character as easily as one slips into clothing.

For One To Love would be amazing enough as a collection of covers, but McLorin-Salvant can write as well as she sings. The opening track, "Fog," is a remarkably atmospheric tune that seems to linger in the air like its namesake, haunting and eerie and blurred at the edges. It's this staggering level of talent that's led to an avalanche of critical acclaim, from the New York Times, The Guardian, and the Los Angeles Times, not to mention Down Beat magazine. McLorin-Salvant took home four awards from the venerable jazz publication in 2014, including Jazz Album of the Year (for her 2013 release Woman/Child), Female Vocalist, Rising Star–Jazz Artist, and Rising Star–Female Vocalist. And if that weren't enough proof of her talents, she won her first Grammy in 2016 for Best Jazz Vocal Album. With a potent combination of songwriting prowess, classical training and jazz instincts, it's incredible to think about how much further she can go.

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This week's concert music: from Beethoven to Lachenmann

What's Your Fantasy?

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 8:31 AM

Soprano Heather Buck - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Soprano Heather Buck

The second week of Spoleto sees a variety of both contemporary and classical music, starting with Wednesday's performance of Music in Time: Ancient Voices of Children. Soprano Heather Buck and pianist Stephen Drury, along with members of the Spoleto Festival USA orchestra, come together to perform George Crumb's Ancient Voices of Children. The program will also feature clarinet and spatial electronics, drawing from Pierre Boulez's Dialogue de l'ombre double, performed by Gleb Kanasevich.

Pianist Stephen Drury - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Pianist Stephen Drury

Next Tuesday sees two performances: Music in Time, Serynade with an Automated Sunrise, and Choral Fantasy. Serynade celebrates the pianist Helmut Lachenmann — the brains behind Little Match Girl's score — with a piano solo, performed by Drury. And the performance does indeed include a sunrise, closing with Oscar Bettison's small ensemble piece, An Automated Sunrise (for Joseph Cornell). Choral Fantasy, held in the Gaillard Center, is a triple threat performance, and by that we mean that the Charleston Symphony Orchestra chorus, Westminster Choir, and the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra will come together to present Beethoven's Mass in C Major and Choral Fantasy, along with Olivier's Messiaen's Couleurs de la Cite Celeste. In 1808 Beethoven performed Choral Fantasy, for the first time creating a piece that utilized the piano, chorus, and orchestra.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A brief report on last night's Marion Square 'Porgy and Bess' simulcast

Like a Hurricane

Posted by Maura Hogan on Tue, May 31, 2016 at 3:35 PM

Full disclosure: I didn’t make it to the hurricane scene in last night’s simulcast of Porgy and Bess at Marion Square. However, that was not because of the rainfall; it was because I had a toddler in tow and had always planned on slipping out a bit nearer to her bedtime.  
JULIAN LYNN
  • Julian Lynn
And, yes, I am going to beat this meteorological metaphor into the cold, damp ground. In the midst of less-than-agreeable conditions, an intrepid, impressive crowd of cultural true believers weathered the prospect of a storm, hunkering down during a deluge or two, to be set on their way by the genius of George Gershwin and the staggering talents of this cast. They were rewarded for their devotion, laying claim to prime real estate in front of two state-of-the-art Jumbotrons, and ensconced in a phenomenally rich sound system resounding robust and triumphant over scattered showers and city traffic.  

As twilight fell, the stage’s first blue tones filtered through close ups of familiar wrought iron gates, honoring one of Charleston’s finest longstanding feats of artistry. And, as night came, contemporary artist Jonathan Green’s vibrant, saturated splashes of reds and pinks and greens offered visual warmth to a muted Marion Square. The crowd was transfixed and unflappable as sprinkles persisted. Everyone simply raised umbrellas and drew loved ones closer.

These fickle conditions only added to the prevailing gorgeous strains of “Summertime,” which, in coastal Charleston, can be the best of times and the worst of times. And, since the action in Porgy and Bess plays out mainly in the open air, the outdoor screening gave palpable new context to the ill-fated courtyard craps game, the Kittiwah picnic, and the raging hurricane. In fact, based on my husband’s account, Crown’s dramatic return in Act III (shortly after 10 p.m.) seemed all the more potent and menacing amidst the lingering remains of a greatly diminished Tropical Depression Bonnie.

With the Citadel Square Baptist Church steeple rising over the screens, it was impossible not to reflect on the Mother Emanuel steeple a few paces east on Calhoun. With these monuments to community all around, everyone — the black and the white, the fancy and the just folks — let Porgy and Bess wash over them, without one audible gripe or crab.

Because that’s what people do in Charleston when conditions threaten. They come out to honor the first of two free simulcasts, with the next being tonight at 7:30 p.m. at West Ashley High School. They graciously accept Spoleto Festival USA’s grand gesture (which, incidentally, was likely not inexpensive to produce). And — present company excluded, as a tired toddler is just poor operatic form — they stay right on through to what was undoubtedly the achingly beautiful, bittersweet end.


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Bonnie couldn't dampen the opening weekend of Spoleto

Rain, rain...

Posted by Chris Haire on Tue, May 31, 2016 at 1:22 PM

The crowd came out, umbrella in hand, for Porgy on Monday - JULIA LYNN
  • Julia Lynn
  • The crowd came out, umbrella in hand, for Porgy on Monday
There was a moment on Saturday evening as I walked from the Bar at Husk to Fast and French that it occurred to me that I had Broad Street all to myself. This is no exaggeration. Just me, walking the sidewalk with a raincoat on, desperately trying not to slip and fall whenever I stepped on a steel grate or a particularly slick set of bricks.

To say it was magical would be overstating it; it was far too wet, and my jeans were far too soaked for such thoughts. But still, the never-ending deluge couldn't dampen my spirits. 

And apparently, Bonnie's rains haven't dampened the spirits of my fellow Spoletians.

Earlier today, I reached out Spoleto's Jennifer Scott to inquire about Bonnie's impact on the fest, and she was decidedly forthcoming. The rains forced several Cistern shows to move to the TD Arena, and while it did affect walk-up sales, the shows had all sold rather well to begin with, so any financial hits were but a minor stumble — much like the one I took outside of City Hall. Needless to say, I recovered before completely losing my balance and otherwise busting my bum on the sidewalk. 

Scott noted that all other shows went on as planned. "There were no issues with bridge closures or any of that kind of weather malarkey, so people could get to everything and did," she says. 

However, the much-anticipated Porgy and Bess simulcast Monday in Marion Square was affected, natch. "Last night’s simulcast would most definitely had more people without the rain, but hundreds still showed up to enjoy what I found an incredibly intimate and enriching way to experience the production," Scott says. "The rain was heaviest during the hurricane scene, and many plucky souls stayed until the end."

Good for them. Porgy and Bess is a fine show, one that I wish more Charlestonians would have the opportunity to see. 

If you were unable to attend last night's simulcast, you have a chance to see a rebroadcast of the opera for free at West Ashley High School tonight at 7:30 p.m. Scott notes that the closeups on the actors add to the thrill of the show and that unlike the show I attended on Friday, all of the words will be crystal clear to the audience. 

More importantly, if you aren't already a Porgy and Bess ticketholder, this will be your last chance to see the show. After Spoleto, this particular incarnation of Porgy is gone, perhaps, forever. Spoleto recorded the opera strictly for this one-time rebroadcast. "The Gershwin estate is extremely protective of its rights," Scott says. "We do not have the rights for anything other than the six live performances, and we got special permission for [Monday] and tomorrow."

She adds, "It will exist as a live experience only, so soak it up!"
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