The artistic and administrative team at the South Florida Symphony are definitely not afraid to tackle a challenge. Case in point: Last season, the symphony collaborated with the famed Martha Graham Dance Co. on a critically-acclaimed world premiere ballet by South Florida composer Tom Hormel, “The Legend of Bird Mountain.”
This season, Maestra Sebrina Maria Alfonso, symphony president Jacqueline Lorber and their board of directors have set their sights even higher—George Gershwin’s quintessential American opera, “Porgy and Bess”—and assembled a dream team to guide the production.
While Lorber was faced with perhaps the biggest challenge, raising the nearly $500,000 necessary at a time when federal and state support for the arts is shrinking, the creative team set about reimagining Gershwin’s drama, set in a seaside slum in Charleston, South Carolina, for the vastly different stages of the Tennessee Williams Theater in Key West, Arsht Center concert hall in Miami and Au Rene Theater at the Broward Center.
Alfonso is overjoyed with the opportunity to conduct Gershwin’s rich and rhythmic score:
She said, “Gershwin's music makes my soul dance. There is a rhythm that is just human and whoever hears it cannot ignore its power. Gershwin dared to write an opera that did not represent European opera. He represented American music and especially music which has definitely influenced American music and that is music of African-American heritage.”
The performers also look forward to the show.
Neil Nelson, who plays Porgy, believes the show has endured for one reason: “It is filled with amazing music!” And, because the entire cast is African-American, he also appreciates the opportunity to share the stage with so many other talented black performers.
His costar, Brandie Sutton, agreed, “Honestly, what I love most about being part of any ‘Porgy and Bess’ production is the sense of family I get with the rest of the cast. It's always a very laidback process and so much fun.”
The South Florida Symphony presents George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” at the Arsht Center in Miami on Jan. 16, the Tennessee Williams Theater in Key West on Jan. 19 and the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 23. Tickets are available at SouthFloridaSymphony.org.