"Timeless but wholehearted and handsome": Rayfield Allied artists impress critics in Porgy & Bess at English National Opera

17 October 2018

James Robinson's new production of Porgy & Bess at English National Opera opened on 11 October with Rayfield Allied artists receiving outstanding reviews.

American stage director James Robinson is Artistic Director at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis where he has mounted productions including Blitzstein’s Regina, the world premieres of Blanchard’s opera-in-jazz Champion and Jack Perla’s Shalimar the Clown, Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer and Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath. His ENO debut production has been praised for its staging and attention to detail:

James Robinson’s staging is timeless but wholehearted and handsome. If you’re going to stage Gershwin’s opera, this is how to do it.

Erica Jeal, The Guardian, October 2018

James Robinson’s full-throttle production of Porgy and Bess steers the rocky boat of St Martin’s Lane home in splendid style... The folk of Catfish Row will never reach that promised land of which they sing so beautifully. But the Coliseum show carries us much closer to it than any of sawn-off, musical-style abridgement of Porgy and Bess ever could. Laden with vocal treasures, splendidly rigged out, and skippered on every deck with skill and dash, this is a boat that should not be missed.

Boyd Tonkin, The Arts Desk, October 2018

It’s traditional in the sense that director James Robinson and designer Michael Yeargan have not sought in any way to stylise the piece, or give it a political spin (after all, with its Grapes of Wrath undertones, it doesn’t need one); the pullulating waterfront tenements, the storms, the healing sun – everything has a vivid immediacy... The chorus comes together as a community in which every member has an allotted role, but Robinson’s direction has them playing together seamlessly, with even the children being without a shred of self-conscious stagyness... The fights, the murder, the funeral, the prayer-meetings – everything is hyper-real.

Michael Church, The Independent, October 2018


In the role of the villainous Crown, American baritone Nmon Ford has received praise for his chilling performance:

“Of the major characters, only Nmon Ford as Bess’s violent lover Crown has the necessary vocal heft and stage presence, and his ability to cow the entire community during the storm scene arouses a genuine thrill of terror.”

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 12 October 2018

“…Nmon Ford’s Crown: as charismatic a psychopath as you’d hope never to meet…”

Richard Morrison, The Times, 12 October 2018

“When Nmon Ford’s Crown, the bullying braggart who is the murderer, traps Nicole Cabell’s Bess on Kittiwah Island, the moment is deeply disturbing… “

David Karlin, Bachtrack, 12 October 2018

This co-production with the Metropolitan Opera, New York and Dutch National Opera travels to Amsterdam in the New Year. It will then go to New York for the 2019-20 season.

Click here to view the wonderful production photographs and to watch the ENO trailer. Performances of Porgy & Bess run until 17 November.

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