What a thrill it was to attend a performance of Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess” last week at the Metropolitan Opera. The tickets had been purchased a long time ago as a present from my husband, Chris Cory, but he was under the weather and unable to attend. Instead, his sister, Eleanor Cory, a composer and dear friend, attended with me.
To be sure, I don’t get into what we used to refer to as “town” very often anymore. But as my late mother-in-law Jeannette Edwards Rattray used to say of East Hampton, “the world comes to our door”: “Porgy & Bess” will be seen as a broadcast on screen at Guild Hall on Feb. 1. Not only do I intend to be there to see it a second time, I am going to encourage my grandchildren and their friends to attend. You should go, too. (There will be an encore screening there on March 28.)
If you are familiar with one or two of the well-known arias in “Porgy & Bess,” but unfamiliar with the plot, be forewarned: It is a sad tale. This is a love story, but not one to which any of us would aspire. Porgy, a crippled man who begs on the streets of Charleston, loves Bess, and while she acknowledges affection for him, especially after she becomes sick and he nurses her back to health, she doesn’t take him seriously.
Bess makes the mistake of deciding to follow a big city wiseacre — indeed, drug dealer — named Sportin’ Life to an imagined glamorous future in New York City. He tempts her and at the same time provides her with “happy dust.”
We care for her in all her weakness, but in the end we care more for Porgy, who knows what it feels like to love, and is willing to follow someone to the ends of the earth. The opera closes as he sings “I’m on my way.”
Despite Porgy winning hearts, the soprano received a bigger ovation at the performance I attended.
Eleanor lives in Manhattan and knows her way around in a way that I no longer do. We met for dinner before the show at a stylish (and noisy, of course) restaurant right across from the Met and Lincoln Center. She travels by subway or bus. As for me, the occasion was such a rare treat that I engaged someone to drive me both ways. He lives on Shelter Island and is a substitute teacher who has occasionally been assigned to classes at East Hampton High School.
To while away the time while I was at the opera, this very nice driver went to see “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” and in what seemed like a miracle to me, actually found a parking place (and no meter!). That’s what I’d call a fabulous night out.