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NCO prepares for’Porgy and Bess’

The Nassau City Opera offered a glimpse of its upcoming production of”Porgy and Bess”on Tuesday evening at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, proving that July can’t come soon enough.

Dressed in full skirts and aprons, the company’s female chorus serenaded a small audience with a hauntingly sweet rendition of”Summertime”, a piece from the 75-year-old opera. A male chorus sang in counterpoint to the women, their voices filled with the promise of an exciting summer time of theater.

The company will perform”Porgy and Bess”, an opera with music by George Gershwin and libretto by DuBose Heyward with lyrics by Heyward and Ira Gershwin, from July 5 10 at the Rainforest Theater. The performance will mark the inauguration of the Nassau City Opera, which first raised eyebrows and hopes in 2009 with a successful production of”Treemonisha.”Led by Dr. Cleveland Williams, who directed and produced the ragtime opera, the group had not yet formally organized under its current name.

Now Williams is proud to present the Nassau City Opera to the public as a full year resident company created to develop young Bahamians in the genre.

“We are definitely looking forward to the production,”said Williams in an earlier interview.

Tuesday’s performance at the NAGB was part of a media launch meant to introduce the press and corporate Bahamas to the company and its objectives. The NCO seeks support for what is expected to be a major production.

The performance in July will include the NCO’s full chorus of 40 members, in addition to the talents of retired musicians from the Royal Bahamas Police Force, headed by Assistant Superintendent Dennis Sturrup. The NCO also plans to bring 13 string players from Canada for the production.

“We are reaching out to corporate Bahamas and to our fellow citizens who love the arts to try and give us the support, not only morally but financially, because to do a production of this caliber calls for funding,”Williams said.

Company member Antoine C. Wallace, who will share the lead role of Porgy with Williams, said that he felt honored to participate in the production.

“I feel that the Nassau City Opera and the vision that Dr. Cleveland Williams has, has been long in the making,”said Wallace.”I appreciate the fact that Dr. Williams has taken the time out and taken on this project, because this is something that should have been done years ago.”

Williams’said that the company’s decision to perform”Porgy and Bess”suits one of its purposes to widely expose opera to local audiences through relatable stories and themes. Set in a fictitious town in South Carolina, a state that shares strong historical ties to The Bahamas,”Porgy and Bess”, the NCO feels, will resonate.

“We chose the work because we think that our fellow Bahamians here in the community can identify with a lot of the themes which are there, and also its beautiful music. It’s a way to educate the public and to prepare the road to do something that is completely different,”he said.

Based on the novel”Porgy”written by DuBose Heyward, which later spawned the play Heyward co-wrote with his wife Dorothy Heyward,”Porgy and Bess”is the story of Porgy, a disabled beggar, who falls in love with Bess, another outcast. Williams believes that social ills depicted in the multi-faceted work are timely for a local audience.

“The themes which are in Porgy and Bess basically are prostitution, drugs, murder, the struggle for love and acceptance,”he said.”We are now touching on a lot of social issues that we have here in our own community and so this is why we chose the work.”

Among notable opera singers to perform in”Porgy and Bess”was Leontyne Price, who played”Bess”in a 1952 production. Since its first production in 1935 the opera has been performed around the world. In 1959 Sir Sidney Poitier played Porgy in a film version of the work, produced by Samuel Goldwyn, which featured Dorothy Dandridge as Bess.

The NCO anticipates its summer performance of”Porgy and Bess”, but offers the public a small production while it waits. The company will perform”The Passion and Crucifixion of the Christ”at Christ Church Cathedral on April 22.

They will also present”An Evening of Opera with the Interpreti Venezian!”an Italian Chamber Orchestra in November.

For more information about the Nassau City Opera contact Dr. Cleveland Williams at 376 2864 or P.O. Box SB 52068.

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