Lyric Opera of Chicago | Lyric Opera House | Classical | Chicago Reader

Lyric Opera of Chicago All Ages Soundboard Recommended

When: Tue., Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m., Fri., Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m., Sun., Nov. 23, 2 p.m., Wed., Nov. 26, 2 p.m., Sat., Nov. 29, 7:30 p.m., Wed., Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m., Fri., Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m., Sat., Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m., Tue., Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m., Fri., Dec. 12, 7:30 p.m., Mon., Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m., Tue., Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m., Thu., Dec. 18, 2 p.m. and Fri., Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m. 2008

When George Gershwin died in 1937, two years after the opening of his only opera, Porgy and Bess, it had yet to achieve establishment acceptance, and he’d moved into writing popular tunes for Hollywood. For decades it was dismissed as a racist relic or presented in truncated versions that turned it into musical theater, but the Lyric premiere of Porgy and Bess thoroughly vindicates Gershwin’s original vision—every moment is a thrill. Infused with the sounds of gospel and spirituals as well as jazzier strains a la An American in Paris, it’s set in the fictitious tenement of Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina, and its portrait of a tightly knit African-American community serves as a backdrop for a story that’s equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking. At the outset Bess is under the thumb of a tough guy called Crown, but she finds real love with Porgy, a crippled beggar—a love that transforms both of them. Their touching duet “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” is just one of the classic American songs—“Summertime,” “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So”—written for Porgy and Bess, and with this production, the first to grace the Civic Opera House since 1952, Chicagoans finally have another chance to hear them in their proper context. Both the all African-American cast—or rather casts, since Porgy will be played by Gordon Hawkins and Lester Lynch, Bess by Morenike Fadayomi and Lisa Daltirus, and Crown by Lynch and Terry Cook—and the large chorus are in magnificent voice and sing with great style. Due to the demand for tickets—the Lyric says it’s sold more for this production than for any other in its 54-year history—a December 16 performance was recently added; the run ends December 19. For updates on ticket availability and pricing, visit the Lyric's site. —Barbara Yaross

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