Friday, February 7, 2020

'Porgy and Bess' gets my goat

I went to the Metropolitan Opera's simulcast of "Porgy and Bess" by accident. My friend Meghan mentioned it just that afternoon as we were sketching and we ended up going that night to see it.

These simulcasts, I have finally gotten over my bad experience years ago at "Der Rosenkavalier," and now I enjoy them.When I really like the opera they are doing, it does not take much to make me go. The theaters are not crowded and you can stretch out and watch this long opera with your shoes kicked off, reclining back in these big sleepy seats.

About "Porgy and Bess," Meghan asked me how many times I had seen it.

That stopped me in my tracks. I know all the music to "Porgy and Bess." I weep through "Bess, You Is My Woman Now." However ... I do not think I had ever seen the show.

Not even in movies!

I am very glad I saw it, long story short. It held my attention. I do have some observations but they will have to wait. For now, I hate to start with the bad news, but one thing horrified me.

No goat!

There was supposed to be a goat in "Porgy and Bess." Porgy had a goat and the goat pulled him around in a wagon.

I know this was true from the start because of our friend Al Tinney. Al unfortunately died about 10 years ago so I cannot present him as a witness. However he spoke first hand about this many times. He was some kind of prodigy teenage pianist and he had the job of helping George Gershwin prepare "Porgy and Bess" for Broadway. Al was the rehearsal pianist.

Plus he got an additional gig that afforded him an actual stage appearance. Gershwin, or whoever, gave Al the job of leading the goat onto the stage.

Ha, ha! We would laugh about that, sitting around.  Al did not go into big detail because he was not a talker. Only later did it dawn on me how pivotal his role actually was. It is a big deal at the end of the opera when Porgy gives the command: "Bring my goat!"

That was when Al would come in, leading his goat! In the original production, I mean.

The goat was iconic. I mean, look at this picture!

And the line had a special significance. It meant Porgy was now proactive, on his way, as he sings in his last song. The music author Joe Horowitz even wrote a book about it, about this director Reuben Mamoulian who put in the "Bring my goat!" line. I think it was Mamoulian's idea anyway. I have the book somewhere but I was too busy to read it when it came out.You can read about it here where Horowitz writes about it. And look! It says that Stephen Sondheim called that line "Bring my goat!" "one of the most moving moments in musical theater history."

Now, no goat!

The Porgy at the current Met production just rides around on some kind of scooter. It distressed me. I whispered, "Meghan, there's no goat."


"There's supposed to be a goat."

At the end, Porgy goes, "Bring my cart!"

NOT the same thing!

Give the guy a break.

Bring his goat!

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