For three weeks in 1955 and 1956 the Everyman Opera Company staged Porgy and Bess in Leningrad and Moscow. In the previous two years, the Robert Breen and Blevins Davis production of Gershwin's opera had toured Europe and Latin America, funded by the U.S. State Department. Yet when Breen negotiated a performance tour to Russia, the American government denied funding, stating, among other reasons, that a production would be “politically premature.” Surprisingly, however, the opera was performed with the Soviet Ministry of Culture paying the tour costs in full. I argue that this tour, negotiated amid the growing civil rights movement, was a non-paradigmatic example of cultural exchange at the beginning of the Cold War: an artistic product funded at different times by both the United States and the Soviet Union. Through an examination of the tour's archival holdings, interviews with surviving cast members, and the critical reception in the historically black press, this essay contributes to ongoing questions of Cold War scholarship, including discussions on race, identity, and the unpredictable nature of cultural exchange.
Venezuela's government-funded, national music education program, El Sistema, has attracted worldwide attention because of its purported success in ‘saving’ children from lives filled with drugs, violence, and crime. It does this by giving them the opportunity to play in an after-school orchestra, one to four hours a day, five to six days a week. This article describes the program’s organizational philosophy and mission, and accounts for its day-to-day activities in order to explore how these programmatic aspects may positively contribute to participant engagement in Paulo Freire’s notion of praxis, that is, “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it” (Freire and Ramos, 2004, p. 51). Additionally, other programmatic aspects of El Sistema are highlighted to help link the program with previous research on improving students’ social behavior and cognitive development. Finally, the article discusses some of the program’s strengths and weaknesses and how it plays a role in Venezuelan society, interacting not only with the community of students and parents, but also with national and local governments and the private business sector. In doing so, El Sistema is contextualized within its social environment and conclusions are drawn on the potential for success and replicability in other cities and countries.
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