Porgy and Bess
- Mark Fisher
- 22 August 2010
This article is from 2010.
French company take Porgy and Bess to the Deep South
When Opera de Lyon’s Porgy and Bess is remembered, it will be for the extraordinary multimedia staging by the directorial double-act of Jose Montalvo and Dominique Hervieu. It isn’t only that we get 50-odd performers on stage - the dancers giving it their head-spinning street moves - it is also that we get a big-screen accompaniment providing a parallel narrative.
It starts with period images of Deep South deprivation onto which dancing figures are superimposed then frozen in time. Jumping between live and recorded pictures, it moves on to roaring seas before reminding us of the opera’s political roots with scenes of modern-day ghettoes, racist assaults and civil rights campaigns.
At times, this can upstage the live action, but for the most part, it defies audiences to treat the show with cosy nostalgia while giving it a bold, modern dynamic.
What the production will not be remembered for is the quality of its diction. Whether it is a product of the EFT acoustics, the operatic voice or a French company attempting Southern accents is hard to say, but I picked up only five per cent of the words despite the familiar score.
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, run now ended.