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A new take on Porgy and Bess

The Cape Town Opera's 2009 adaptation of Porgy and Bess was a hit in the UK; so much so that the company recently went back for another highly praised run, which culminated in sold-out West End shows. If you'd like to experience why the overseas audiences couldn't get enough, it will be performed at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town for only three nights.
Xolela Sixaba (Porgy) and Nonhlanhla Yende (Bess) - Photo by John Snelling
Xolela Sixaba (Porgy) and Nonhlanhla Yende (Bess) - Photo by John Snelling

This adaptation changes the setting of the Gershwin original from 1920s South Carolina to 1970s Soweto. Christine Crouse, artistic director of the Cape Town Opera, said that this gives the production a modern resonance and adopts the themes (of poverty, hardship, and hope) as South Africa's own. The result is a "profoundly African sound", wrote a reviewer in The Observer, "particularly in the chorus, whose exuberance and volume is limitless".

Here's what a few more critics had to say:

• "Just as the Mariinksy Opera became a cradle for young singers after the fall of the Iron Curtain, so it is possible to imagine Cape Town as the next stop on the operatic talent spotter's itinerary." ~ The Financial Times

• "Christine Crouse's newly sharpened production has real clout. A fierce energy pulsates through the company." ~ The Guardian

• "The aspiring spirit of community runs deep in the piece and the company doesn't just recognise but live it. There really is no substitute for the kind of collective fervour they bring." ~ The Independent

• "Gershwin's finest score came across with enormous impact. What also came across, more excitingly still, was the magnificence of the soloists. A great evening all round." ~ The Spectator

• "Porgy [and Bess] is an opera that showcases the chorus, and Cape Town's is quite magnificent. The spirituals towards the opera's end set my spine tingling. Gershwin's score is a feast, and Cape Town Opera serves it up proud." ~ The Telegraph

• "Christine Crouse's vivacious staging is everything one had expected and hoped for. The loose-limbed spirit of African dance is never far away. You'd need a heart of concrete not come out smiling." ~ The Times

Porgy and Bess, presented in partnership with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, is showing at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town on 29 September, 4 October, and 6 October. Tickets are available from Computicket and prices start at R100.

About Eugene Yiga

Eugene graduated from the University of Cape Town with distinctions in financial accounting and classical piano. He then spent over two-and-half years working in branding and communications at two of South Africa's top market research companies. Eugene also spent over three-and-a-half years at an eLearning start-up, all while building his business as an award-winning writer. Visit, follow @eugeneyiga on Twitter, or email moc.agiyenegue@olleh to say, um, hello.

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