Duke Ellington additionally objected to Porgy and Bess

Additional to the protest we reported by the property of William Grant Nonetheless, accusing George Gershwin of musical plagiarism the Opera League of Los Angeles is about to current Duke Ellington’s opera Queenie Pie, which has an alternate end result for the much-misunderstood Bess.

Right here’s what they are saying:

What Ever Occurred to Bess?
Duke Ellington’s opera, “Queenie Pie”
Within the penultimate scene of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Bess, succumbing to the temptation proffered by drug pusher Sportin’ Life, departs for New York with him.

As interesting as Gershwin’s music is, the characterization of Bess and the opposite residents of Catfish Row to be in accordance with the existent stereotypical view of African People within the early twentieth century was objectionable to Duke Ellington, an early proponent of making and selling artwork that projected a way more optimistic depiction of his race in America.

Ellington’s objection was in accord with many different artists affiliated with the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural motion fueled by the huge migration of African People from the institutionalized racism of the Outdated South.


Duke Ellington, circa 1925

Gershwin’s Porgy premiered on Broadway in 1935; numerous notes, papers, and articles present that Ellington started composing an authentic American opera in 1936. Ellington, largely a self-taught composer and arranger, all the time had a number of tasks in progress. Typically a venture can be put aside for months (and even, years) after which returned to for extra work.

Circumstantially, the opera Queenie Pie is Ellington’s fanciful invention of what occurred to Gershwin’s Bess, starting at some extent following her ten years residence in New York Metropolis’s Harlem. Lengthy Seaside Opera [LBO] will produce a efficiency run, starting on Sunday, January 26 (see www.longbeachopera.org).

This opera’s gestation interval is the longest in opera historical past, persevering with, in a de facto sense, till (even!) now. As was his wont, Ellington alternately put aside after which returned to this – what was to be – his solely opera. Because the years handed, he would compose new music, regularly stirring it into the score-to-be, usually exhibiting proof of his being influenced by different composers – each up to date and historic, together with Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Richard Strauss.

Ellington was nonetheless engaged on Queenie Pie whereas on his dying mattress in 1974 and so the opera was left incomplete, leaving an nearly completed vocal line (lyrics and melodies), however roughly solely a twenty-five % accomplished piano line and a moderately tenuous libretto. As a consequence, each the libretto and the orchestration have needed to be re-worked every time the work has been carried out:

· In 1986, it was produced for the American Music Theatre Competition in Philadelphia

· In 1993, a concertized model was carried out on the Brooklyn Academy of Music

· In 2008, the Oakland Opera Theater produced a model, the orchestration and libretto being reworked by Marc Bolin

· In 2009, the College of Texas’ Butler College of Music produced one other model, with Ellington collaborator Betty McGettigan revising the textual content and lyrics.

The story line vaguely (and whimsically) references the lifetime of Madam C. J. Walker [1867 – 1919], an American entrepreneur, considered the primary feminine self-made millionaire in America. She made her fortune by creating and advertising a highly-successful line of magnificence and hair merchandise for black ladies.

With the model utilized by the Oakland Opera Theater as a base, LBO has proceeded to do its personal adaptation, with Stage Director Ken Roht adapting each libretto and choreography. Queenie Pie is in two acts: Act 1 is about in Harlem and encompasses a melodramatic love triangle:

· The character of Queenie Pie [QP] is a longtime, award-winning beautician [Ellington had in mind her being a Lena Horne-type jazz singer]

· Café Olay [CO] is the opera’s antagonist, a youthful girl, getting into the story because the incipient competitors to QP’s ten-year reign as Harlem’s main beautician [the French spelling is “Café au lait” (coffee with milk), reflecting the preoccupation with gradations of racial color: CO is Creole.]

· Holt Faye, the mandatory apex of the love triangle, is a mix ballad singer and stand-up comedian

· Lil’ Daddy is a generally advisor, generally servant to QP

· LBO has taken the logical step of contracting with skilled jazz musicians for the first musical duties: the orchestra would be the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Limitless, veteran jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, Inventive Director; and the Conductor might be Jeffrey Lindberg, Inventive Director for the Chicago Jazz Orchestra.

Act 1 is mainly a car for the enjoyment of Ellington’s music, a lot because the Astaire-Rogers musicals of the thirties have been automobiles with which to relish the choreography of Fred and Ginger.

Act 2 is all of that and fairly a bit extra: set on a “mystical island”, it encompasses a group of highly-unique characters [e.g., a King, a Prince, a Witch Doctor and something like a barber shop quartet] collaborating in a sequence of highly-improbable plot twists. Writing within the Washington Put up, Megan Rosenfeld thought that the distinctive characters have been paying homage to the Damon Runyon-like varieties in Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls, whereas the highly-improbable plot twists have been one thing that “Gilbert and Sullivan on hallucinogens” would possibly effectively have provide you with.

LBO’s Stage Director Ken Roht acknowledged a fundamental weak point within the libretto handed alongside to LBO from the Oakland Opera Theater: it contained no songs for CO in Act 2. So, invoking a lot the identical spirit that the Komische Oper Berlin known as upon when it included Mozart’s fantasias Ok 397 in D minor and Ok 475 in C minor in Barrie Kosky’s manufacturing of The Magic Flute (seen lately right here at Los Angeles Opera and performed on an eighteenth century Hammerklavier), LBO has inserted two songs from the large accumulation of Ellington materials obtainable from years previous: “Black Butterfly”, a tune written by the Duke together with Ben Carruthers and Irving Mill round 1958, and “I just like the dawn” (from 1947).

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