Argentina The Gershwins, Porgy and Bess: Soloists, Cape Town Opera Chorus and Orchestra / Tim Murray (conductor), Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 13.12.2016. (JSJ)
Porgy – Xolela Sixaba
Bess – Philisa Sibeko
Crown – Mandisinde Mbuyazwe
Clara – Siphamandla Yakupa
Serena – Goitsemang Lehobye
Sportin’ Life – Lukhanyo Moyake
Maria – Miranda Tini
Robbins – Mthunzi Mbombela
Undertaker – Mandla Mndebele
Jake – Owen Metsileng
Jim – Lindile Kula Jr
Mingo – Lusindiso Dubula
Peter – Andile Tshoni
Lilly – Bukelwa Velem
Strawberry Woman – Noluvuyiso Mpofu / Ernestine Stuurman
Direction – Christine Crouse
Sets/costumes – Michael Mitchell
Lighting – Kobus Rossouw
Chorus – Marvin Kernelle
Choreography – Sibonakaliso Ndaba
Cape Town Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess has been on the international scene since 2009, where it has attracted a good deal of accolades. The background to it is by now probably well known with the transposition of the work to a South African township in the apartheid era – must be a Cape one, given the association to fishing. Not that one would necessarily recognise it as such from the scenery, which is sufficiently conventional that it could be many a place, but other subtle references abound, such as to popular local products of the day, which will be recognisable to those who know South Africa.
With this also comes its other principal feature of an all South African cast comprised of the growing ‘new’ generation of local singers. Exactly as the work is meant to be. It is also important given the remarkable spontaneity and sense of rhythm of Africans, with the significant role of the chorus – here Cape Town Opera’s chorus – who can dance as well as they sing.
Obviously the cast has changed over the years of the production and here the star was undoubtedly Xolela Sixaba as Porgy. A warm strong baritone, his depiction of the cripple was also remarkable, moving about on his knees – either on a small trolley or directly – as if it was entirely natural.
Philisa Sibeko gave a good performance of Bess, but she like the other members of the cast, excepting Sixaba, were at times overpowered by the orchestra. Lukhanyo Moyake was a suitably oily Sportin’ Life while the other bringer of strife to the otherwise closely knit Catfish Row community, Crown, was well played by Mandisinde Mbuyazwe. Notable too Siphamandla Yakupa’s Clara and Owen Metsileng’s Jake, and Miranda Tini was a suitably feisty Maria.
Besides the volume problem Tim Murray elicited good playing from the Colón orchestra and all in all the work made a good and different end to the local opera season.
Jonathan Spencer Jones