2020-07-17 01:59:15 UTC
Gershwin's opera will be presented as part of PBS' "Great Performances
from the Met" series this weekend. I had long thought it was just a
musical and never had seen a performance before the DVD, shot on a
movie set, with the music under the direction of Simon Rattle. It
turns out that it is a real opera. There is only a small amount of
spoken dialog, given to the few white characters. Besides some great
tunes, the harmony, counterpoint and orchestration seemed to me that
Gershwin had learned his craft pretty well. The description of Porgy
as the greatest American opera doesn't seem to be unreasonable.
However, not everybody agrees. I once posted Harold C Schoenberg's
takedown and here is one from a serious musician who also composed
operas, Virgil Thompson: "The material is straight from the melting
pot. At best it is a piquant but highly unsavory stirring-up together
of Israel, Africa and the Gaelic Isles. [Gershwins] lack of
understanding of all the major problems of form, of continuity, and of
serious or direct musical expression is not surprising in view of the
impurity of his musical sources. I do not like fake folklore, nor
fidgety accompaniments, nor bittersweet harmony, nor six-part
choruses, nor gefilte fish orchestration".
What the hell is he talking about?