Sunday, 23 February 2020

The Metropolitan Opera’s Vital “Porgy and Bess”

As America was establishing itself as a cultural power, and setting up its institutions to garrison that culture, it conspicuously and contemptibly omitted much of black American culture and history from that sanctum. America’s hallowed depictions of itself in claimants to the Great American Novel and the Hollywood studio classics were not given to portray any African-American perspective, nor to consider the influences drawn from African-American culture or the significance of black history. George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess is an enduringly great opera for a number of reasons, and one reason brazenly realised in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production is that it takes black history as American history itself, and it depicts the expressive and exuberant aspects of African-American life as the essence of America’s brash, new, singularly energetic place in world culture.

The most obvious feature of Gershwin’s musical style is the common attribute of American culture in general: It blends a variety of contrasting styles and origins, from diverse cultural origins, and arrives at something boldly new and flavoursome. Gershwin’s particular brand of the new musical styles was one that overtly paid respect to and acknowledged its roots in African-American culture. Taking a leaf from Dvořák’s bountiful and neatly compiled book, Gershwin saw that the way forward for music in America would come out of black people’s music, and he developed his personal artistic voice founded on that idea.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

My Oscar Ballot – 2020

The best thing about the 92nd Academy Awards is how early in the year everything is happening: from the Golden Globes on 5 January to the Oscars on 10 February, a five-week awards season is the shortest in living memory, and the most gratifying in an age where the Oscars clutch furiously with their Gollum-arms at a veneer of prestige and relevance.

The worst thing about the Academy Awards is to mistake their importance. They have practical significance, in boosting the careers of certain actors, craftspeople, and other working celebrities, but they no longer reflect what the rest of the world is interested in watching nor any kind of majority consensus in what constitutes the best being made in movies today.