GREENSBORO — Greensboro Opera won't present "Porgy and Bess" starring Rhiannon Giddens until January 2022, because of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
But audiences can get a preview when Giddens and several cast members give a free virtual concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday. It can be found through the opera company's website at greensboroopera.org or on their Facebook page at facebook.com/GreensboroOpera. The preview is free, but donations will be accepted.
"Summertime and the Livin' is Easy" will feature Giddens, a Greensboro native and Grammy Award winner; Thomas Cannon, Robert Anthony Mack, Cheryse McLeod Lewis and conductor Awadagin Pratt.
George Gershwin called his masterpiece "Porgy and Bess" a “folk opera.”
With familiar tunes such as “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “My Man’s Gone Now,” it is a story about community — love for each other, struggles and redemption and overcoming adversity.
Giddens (who will sing Bess in 2022) was pre-recorded, as were Lewis and Pratt. Cannon (Porgy) and Mack (Sportin' Life) will join from the Van Dyke Performance Space in Greensboro; Lewis (Annie and Strawberry Woman) will perform from Seattle, and Pratt from Cincinnati.
"We've been putting all of this together with Rhiannon in Ireland (where she lives part-time), Cheryse in Seattle and Awadagin in Cincinnati," said David Holley, Greensboro Opera general and artistic director, and director of opera at UNCG.
Holley and Elvira Green will host.
Green, a Greensboro resident and opera board member, will serve as artistic adviser to "Porgy and Bess." The veteran mezzo-soprano performed in “Porgy and Bess” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
The program will include:
• Giddens singing "Summertime”
• Giddens and Lewis singing two duets: “Habañera/Dat’s Love” and “I’ve Been ‘Buked”
• Pratt playing a piano arrangement of "Bess Yu is My Woman"
• In-person performances by Cannon and Mack.
• Thomas singing “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin” and Pierrot’s Tanzlied (not from "Porgy and Bess").
• Mack singing “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ for New York.”
• Interview with Lydia Maksimov (author of 2019-2020 "Write Your Own Opera" winning story "Be Yourself!" along with footage from February's Opera at the Carolina program for Guilford County schools students.
Giddens is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” recipient.
Cannon, a baritone, appeared as Porgy in Fort Worth Opera‘s production in May 2019.
Pratt is also a faculty pianist at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro.
Holley will stage-direct "Porgy and Bess."
Greensboro Opera had planned to present the production on Nov. 13 and 15 at the new downtown Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts.
But the Tanger Center has yet to open because of the pandemic, and no opening date has been announced. So "Porgy and Bess" has been postponed until Jan. 21 and 23, 2022.