Friday, November 11, 2005

Porgy and Bess--Washington, D.C.

On Saturday, October 29th, I attended the Washington National Opera's production of Porgy and Bess, George's Gershwin's stunning 1935 "opera" about love, race, poverty and faith. Why the quotes? A lot of people seem reticent to classify the work as opera, probably due to the jazz and popular feel of the piece. Jens F. Laurson comments on this is his contribution to the Ionarts blog.

It was a fabulous production, from start to finish. In addition to a strong cast in the leading roles, there were poignant and gorgeous smaller moments. One of these surprises was the showstopping coloratura of "Strawberries." I couldn't find who had sung this little bit, but it was indeed one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. I was joined by a few friends at the production who agreed. How ironic that I should walk out of the Kennedy Center not with echoes of "Summertime" or "Bess, You Is My Woman Now"--but instead, something that was nothing more than a 2-3 minute sound byte in a sea of extraordinary arias.

The music is hard to define, and I think that is why there have been so many spurious attempts at damaging the reputation of this opera. There are moments of extreme modernism, cantabile arias, New Orleans jazz, and yes--even Hebraic cantoring. On this last note, I may be in the minority. The mourning modal sounds of Porgy's elegy evoked sounds of the cantor in my mind.

Porgy and Bess
is one of the rare opportunities we have to unite popular and elite culture in this country. It is for this reason that I'd like to see the same quality of performance presented in a venue where one doesn't have to pay $102 for the privilege.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Bobby McFerrin at UCSB Campbell Hall

Last night I had the chance to witness an extraordinary performer share his gifts in such a way that one almost felt a religiosity to the entire experience. Bobby McFerrin sat alone on stage, bathed in a single spotlight, and held the full house captive for almost two hours. McFerrin’s vocal virtuosity was never in doubt, but last night he exploited his four-octave range to such a degree that one audience member said in awe: “That’s just not right.”

And indeed, something seems “not right” about this man. One wonders if he is an angel perhaps, for to have so much talent wrapped up in one human being seems almost impossible. McFerrin invited audience participation during many of his numbers and this included everything from having three volunteers do dance improvisations to inviting the audience to sing Gounod’s Ave Maria over McFerrin’s Bach’s C Major Prelude. It was indeed participatio actuosa in every respect. Not only was McFerrin more than willing to share the spotlight with the audience as a whole, he rendered a spiritual whilst his mother and sister sang along from the middle of the audience.

McFerrin ended the evening’s performance with his classic one-man version of The Wizard of Oz. He began with a very special textless “Over the Rainbow,” conveying every last sentiment of the text without ever singing a word of it. To watch McFerrin was to witness something both spectacular and humble at the same time. All of McFerrin’s numbers were stunning from start to finish.

Someone once asked, “If God played an instrument, what would it be?” Last night, folks in Santa Barbara got their answer.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Article on Women and Blogging

Here's an interesting, somewhat tongue-in-cheek "article" about why there are fewer women bloggers than male bloggers..

Monday, January 31, 2005


Here is a wonderful article on the strongest beginning of the abolitionist movement in the UK (1787). It is a testimony for both grassroots movements and perseverance. In the grander scheme of things, 50 years is only a blink of an eye and well worth it.

Its hard to keep fighting when you know you may not see the change you seek in your own lifetime. But we should begin to embrace the ideas of legacy from an activism point of view, rather than something unchangeable handed down through the ages.


Mostly Musicology, Teaching, and a bit of Miscellanea