Friday and Saturday To-Do: 'Porgy and Bess' | Rock Candy

Friday and Saturday To-Do: 'Porgy and Bess'

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‘PORGY AND BESS'
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $20-$72.

This weekend, for the first time ever, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presents Gershwin's “Porgy and Bess.” There'll be no costumes or staging, but otherwise the folk opera gets the full treatment, with four decorated guest vocalists, the UAPB Vesper Choir, the Philander Smith College Choir and, of course, the full symphony. That's a promising slate of collaborators. Coupled with the music in “Porgy and Bess,” which borrows heavily from jazz and folk music idioms, the two performances promise to be among the strongest the ASO offers this season. But is “Porgy and Bess” racist? George and Ira Gershwin adapted the libretto from Southern writer DuBose Heyward's 1924 novel, “Porgy.” Heyward was an early believer in primitivism, the notion of blacks as “noble savages.” And over the years, critics have derided “Porgy and Bess” for promoting racial stereotypes, a notion that gained traction during the civil rights era and continues to hold sway today, even as the opera's defenders frame it as a cultural artifact. Same time, place and price on Saturday.

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