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PORGY AND BESS (article first published : 2004-02-28)

A one-off visiting American concert performance of highlights from George Gershwin's watershed opera,Porgy and Bess, will take place on March 5 at 19h30 at the UKZN (formerly University of Natal, Durban) Opera School's 240-seater concert hall featuring much-loved ex-Durban singer, Bronwyn Forbay in the coveted role of Bess.

This exciting project is collaboration between the Southern Methodist University in Dallas and the KZN Opera School spearheaded by dynamic Dallas-based veteran opera singer and voice coach Barbara Hill Moore. The feature roles will be performed by eight SA-born opera graduate students who are currently studying and performing in the States, and ten American singers. The chorus is made up from the cream of UKZN Opera School.

The talented, beautiful and gracious Bronwyn was the first singer from South Africa to win a two-year Fulbright scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music in New York. She will be remembered for her roles in Gounod's Faust, Night of a Hundred Stars, Mercury Rising and Shall We Dance in Durban. She also sang for the High Commissioner for the R.S.A, his Excellency Andre Jaquet and Mrs Linda Jaquet at a farewell dinner in Ottawa last year.

In 1926 George Gershwin read Porgy by DuBose Heyward, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, and immediately wrote to the author suggesting that they collaborate on a folk opera based on the novel. Heyward's novel was inspired by a newspaper article about a maimed black man who committed murder in the height of passion, and was based on a real-life well-known local character called "Goat Sammy," who could not stand upright and was forced to travel about in a goat-drawn cart. The three-act opera takes place in Catfish Row, once an aristocratic mansion, now a crowded waterfront tenement. Among the numbers made famous by the opera are: Summertime; I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' and Bess, You Is My Woman Now.

The company is doing a whistle-stop tour around South Africa doing semi-staged concert versions of Porgy and Bess highlights in four cities: March 3 (University of Port Elizabeth); March 6 (University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban); March 9 (University of Cape Town with the Cape Town Opera Chorus (and the CTU orchestra) and March 10 (UNISA, Pretoria).

Seats for the Durban concert can be reserved by phoning Maggie on 031 260 1672. There is no formal ticket price for the performance but patrons are urged to make a contribution towards the cost of the evening by placing a donation in the donation-box at the door. A limited number of tickets are available on a first-come-first-served basis. The performance lasts for 75 minutes. The concert hall is located in Princess Alice Avenue. Secure parking is available.




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