The Jazz Age in Art and Song

The liberalism and thrilling lifestyle of the Jazz Age has often inspired American artists, designers and musicians. A celebration of jazz evokes feelings of excitement and wonderment, just the emotions we hope to strike when Opera Delaware and the Delaware Art Museum team up this month to present The Jazz Age in Art and Song.

On April 19th, Delaware Art Museum (DAM) Executive Director Danielle Rice and Opera Delaware (OD) Executive Director Lee Kimball will take us on an artistic journey through the Jazz Age with exuberant conversation that will amuse and inform. A wealth of knowledge between them, Danielle will discuss influences on early 20th century artists while Lee will explore 1920s music and its culmination in the greatest of American operas, Porgy and Bess.

The successful 2010 ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ collaboration between OD and the DAM was the inspiration for next week’s Jazz Age in Art and Song.

The Jazz Age and the Roaring 20s, as they came to be called, burst on the world psyche with amazing colors, great exuberance and fast-paced living. Influenced by African art and American jazz, multi-sensory extravaganzas abounded. Just think of the swirling rhythms of any Gershwin piece you know – Rhapsody in Blue or An American in Paris – and you’ll understand what I mean. The Jazz Age was a time of freedom, of experimentation, the mores of the old century forgotten as the devastation of World War I swept them away. Form and content burst through the confines of classically build structure and boundaries became non-existent.

For those of you who follow Downton Abby on PBS, you see that following World War I, the structure of the old world crumbled and a brave new world was born. Class and race barriers were broken, new frontiers approached. Not all experimentation was immediately successful; Porgy and Bess was not widely accepted in the United States as a legitimate opera until 1976 when it was performed by the Houston Grand Opera. Today, having withstood the test of time, it is now part of the standard early 20th century repertoire.

Danielle and Lee are crowd pleasers. A “meet and greet” reception will follow their talk and the evening will conclude with highlights from Porgy and Bess in the Fusco Hall, one of the most wonderful spaces in the Museum where Gershwin’s rhythms will travel upward to fill the multi-level space and give new meaning to the phrase “up close and personal.” There will be no orchestra pit to separate you from the artists or them from you. We hope to see you on April 19th at the Delaware Art Museum for The Jazz Age in Art and Song.

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