Poverty, racism, class difference and displacement are universal issues. No matter against which background Porgy and Bess is set, these problems will always be with us, we face these social imbalances inherent to the human race daily. When I first approached the piece after its long performance history in Cape Town I was struck by some of the parallels between the life in Catfish Row and urban society in South Africa.

As a creative team, we were inspired by pictorial depictions of township- and urban society life in Soweto during the seventies in South Africa, by photographers such as Jürgen Schadeberg, Chief Photographer of the famous DRUM magazine and James Barnor. Urban society in the seventies in Soweto was a place where gangsterism was rife. The tsotsis were inspired to dress like American film stars such as Richard Widmark, James Cagney and Edward G Robinson. Music-making on the streets and in shebeens were part of a seemingly contented everyday life. Dancing and music became a coping mechanism to the African working class. Gambling was a favorite pass-time and the richer swanky township–bosses engaged in all sorts of extra “business”. To escape the harsh realities of their lives people turned to the church, especially the African Independent Churches like the Zionist Church. The Zionist church sprang from the Christian Catholic church in Zion Illinois, and was established in Africa by American missionaries in 1904. Apart from all the hardship, our townships have often been referred to as the place where the heart of the nation beats and a very strong sense of community still exists today.

Transferring this South African township history into Porgy and Bess seemed a perfect fit.  The people of ‘Catfish Row’, a community who has ‘hijacked’ a derelict building, have lived here for some time, whilst newcomers seeking for shelter or a little corner to sleep, are almost always welcomed.

This still happens today in our modern day society. All the cultures of township life in Africa rule in “Catfish Row”.  The spirit of our nation is a unique one and Cape Town Opera is home to many singers from different cultures and communities, some still living in townships, bringing their extraordinary voices, hearts and souls to their performances. With this production of Porgy and Bess, we strive to reflect a true sense of the South African people.

Christine Crouse, Director


The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess is an opera of extreme complexity and technical difficulty. With its requirements for a large chorus of enormously talented black singers, the opera is ideal for Cape Town Opera’s pool of performers.

This production of Porgy and Bess reflects the particular intensity and energy of South African singers. The daily reality of their lives and simply going home after a night’s work are more dangerous and more fraught with melodrama than any of the operas in which they perform.

The action is set in the same era as Apartheid’s highest arrogance and worst excesses. With forced removals, demolitions of ancestral dwellings, and lack of respect for human rights, life was all too expendable and miserable for those people so conveniently forgotten by the few who lived in comfort and security. This is the story of Porgy and Bess, and Cape Town Opera’s production of Gershwin’s classic work reflects the spirit of optimism that pervades contemporary South Africa.




Asia Culture Center, Gwangju, South Korea

Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Teatro Real, Madrid, Spain

Grand-Théâtre, Opera National de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France
Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, Spain

Hessisches Staatstheater, Wiesbaden, Germany

Artscape Opera House, Cape Town, South Africa
Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham, England
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, Wales
The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, England
The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, England
The London Coliseum, London, England
Arts Centre Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia (concert)
Berlin Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (concert)

The Israeli Opera, Tel Aviv, Israel

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, Wales
Royal Festival Hall, London, England (concert)
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland

Deutsche Oper Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Den Norske Opera, Oslo, Norway

Kinjani Festival, Hells Gate, Nairobi, Kenya (concert)
Malmö Opera, Malmö, Sweden

Artscape Opera House, Cape Town, South Africa
NorrlandsOperan, Umeå, Sweden


In The Press

Disarming and electrifying

The vibrancy and quality of the choral singing is inspiring throughout
The Telegraph

Energy surges off the stage
London evening, Standard

Cape Town Opera’s chorus is quite magnificent.
Rupert Chistiansen
The Telegraph, UK

South Africa could rescue Opera… returning it to the passion, humanity, and personality that inspired the great operas in the first place.
Tom Service,
Guardian, UK

The vivacious staging is everything one had expected and hoped for … the loose-limbed spirit of African dance is never far away… you’d need a heart of concrete not come out
Geoff Brown
The Times, UK

Be it the thrilling wake scene or the great “Doctor Jesus” ensemble where the entire
company comes downstage in a rising crescendo of impassioned and seemingly
random invocations, the effect is thrilling.
Edward Seckerson
The Independent

Cape Town Opera’s Soweto Porgy and Bess was little short of a triumph. (They)
put on a show that’s thrilling from beginning to end… It’s hard to imagine Gershwin’s
masterpiece better done.
David Mellor
The Mail on Sunday, UK

A popular success and rightfully so, because the theatrical interpretation, in South African style, of the fantastic opera of George Gershwin is a worthy spectacular, well resolved and defended with an overwhelming display of energy by a team of singers, dancers and actors who let it all out on the stage.
El Pais (Edicion Cataluña)

Check out Shoprite Specials and Pick n pay Specials (on ESpecials) for measures such as disinfectants to take against contagious diseases at events such as concerts and theaters.