South Africa’s only repertory opera company, Cape Town Opera (CTO), makes its UK debut in October with nine fully-staged performances of the Gershwins’ landmark opera Porgy and Bess at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh on 30 and 31 October 2009.

The opera will be conducted by American-born maestro David Charles Abell, one of Bernstein’s last protégés and widely acclaimed for his authoritative and lively readings of musical theatre as well as opera and concert works. The production is directed by CTO’s artistic manager, Christine Crouse with designs by Peter Cazalet and Michael Mitchell and lighting by Kobus Rossouw.

Gershwin modelled his score on many types of folk song that he blended with traditional arias and recitatives. Many of Cape Town Opera’s singers are not formally trained, but choral music and singing traditional folk songs is an integral part of their lives in South Africa’s townships.

“We have a very personal relationship with this opera,” comments Michael Williams, CTO’s general manager. “Our singers know the hardships of living in a community that is fraught with poverty, unemployment and violence. But the ultimate message in Porgy and Bess is one of survival over adversity and this makes the work particularly pertinent, given the recent history of South Africa.”

Cape Town Opera celebrated its tenth anniversary in May 2009 having survived a decade as a non-profit organisation with no annual subsidy from the national government. Private individuals, trusts, businesses and the national lottery, along with a loyal opera audience, have ensured the company’s continued existence.

The 2009 production of Porgy and Bess has been co-financed by the Wales Millennium Centre and the UK tour is supported by the Donald Gordon Foundation and managed by Askonas Holt Ltd.