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Seattle Opera Presents PORGY AND BESS

Seattle Opera Presents PORGY AND BESSWhen you think of the song, "Summertime," perhaps you hear the elegant Ella Fitzgerald-or the earthy Janis Joplin-singing in your mind. But, while many great covers exist, there's nothing like experiencing the song where "fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high," as Gershwin first wrote it: for the powerful voice of an opera singer. This August, come experience the origin of songs such as "Summertime," and "I Loves You, Porgy" when Seattle Opera presents The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess.

"Not only is the music in Porgy and Bess iconic, but this opera offers a rare and beautiful moment to see so many People of Color onstage," said ChrisTiana ObeySumner, Social Impact Consultant for Seattle Opera. "As audience members, Porgy is an opportunity for us to celebrate the Black American experience, and to wrestle with aspects of America's complicated racial history."

Through lobby displays, program articles, and blog pieces, Seattle Opera will center Black narratives as it provides historical and cultural context for Porgy. Prior to the August performances, all are encouraged to attend Breaking Glass: Hyperlinking Opera & Issues, a free public forum on July 28 that will tackle issues of diversity, equity, and representation in a conversation led by arts leaders of color.

Set in 1920s South Carolina, Porgy depicts life, death, love, and hope in an African American community. The all-Black cast includes both international opera stars such as Plácido Domingo protégée and former beauty queen Angel Blue (Bess), and a chorus made up of artists from throughout the Puget Sound such as Ty Willis, who most recently performed in 5th Avenue Theatre's Kiss Me Kate, and his daughter, Bethanie Willis, who recently starred in "Crowns" at Taproot Theatre. Also joining the Porgy chorus is Michael A. Wansley ("Wanz") who sang the soulful hook on the Grammy-Award winning song "Thrift Shop," by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

The first production of the company's 2018/19 Season, Porgy offers an opportunity to create programming based on feedback garnered at "Cultured Conversations: Black Inclusion at the Opera," which the company hosted in March 2018. For example, the company plans to offer a free event for the Black community to attend a rehearsal and meet with the artists.

"Our ultimate goal is to continue reducing historic barriers and biases in this art form that have impacted Black people and other People of Color," said General Director Aidan Lang.

In the title roles of Porgy and Bess, Alfred Walker and Angel Blue return to McCaw Hall, alternating with Kevin Short and Elizabeth Llewellyn, who makes her company debut. Returning artists from the company's 2011 Porgy include Mary Elizabeth Williams as Serena and Jermaine Smith as Sportin' Life. The opera also includes performances by Lester Lynch (Crown), Brandie Sutton (Clara), Derrick Parker (Jake), Judith Skinner (Maria), Bernard Holcomb (Mingo), Edward Graves (Robbins), Martin Bakari (Peter the Honeyman), Nicholas Davis (Jim), Damien Geter (Undertaker), Ernest C. Jackson Jr. (Nelson), and Cheryse McLeod Lewis (Annie) in their company debuts; as well as Ashley Faatoalia (Crab Man), Ibidunni Ojikutu (Strawberry Woman), and Marlette Buchanan (Lily).

The creative team includes Paul Tazewell, who took home a Tony Award for his costume design in Hamilton, as well as stage director Francesca Zambello, whose production has been hailed as "proof that Gershwin's opus remains America's most important 20th-century opera" (Bachtrack.com). Maestro John DeMain, whose Porgy and Bess recording won a Grammy, conducts the opera for the fourth time at Seattle Opera.

Porgy and Bess opens Saturday, Aug. 11 and runs through Saturday, Aug. 25. Tickets are available online at seattleopera.org, by calling 206-389-7676, or in-person at the box office located at 1020 John Street (two blocks west of Fairview). Box office hours are Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Groups save at least 20 percent: 206.676.5588 or groups@seattleopera.org.

Family Day

Sunday, August 19 at 2 p.m.

McCaw Hall

Sunday, August 19, 2018 at 2:00 PM is Family Day at Porgy And Bess! For this specially designated performance, students age 18 and under pay only $20 for almost any seat.* Family Days also feature special student-oriented activities during intermission. Wondering if this opera is appropriate for your children? READ OUR CONTENT ADVISORIES

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