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Posted August 8, 2011
This recording is revelatory and important because it is the version that opened on Broadway in 1935 under the supervision of the original creators. Mauceri used the original Broadway parts and scores (and cuts and changes therein) to restore this version - which have always been available. Apparently, no other conductor ever cared to consult them - most companies have always performed the complete, unedited version, assuming that it was the "correct" version, and that "longer is best" (which is common, if not wise, in the opera world). However, the full, engraved, published score to PORGY AND BESS was published BEFORE the show opened in Boston. Therefore, what opera companies have been performing for decades isn't neccesarily the "finished" or "best" or "urtext" version- it is the first draft of the show before it went into rehearsal. It's unrealistic to think that the Gershwins, who had never composed an opera before, would have thought that their first draft was perfect. This recording reflects the changes they made to the show after seeing it in front of live audiences during the pre-Broadway tryout in Boston. It is this stageworthy, streamlined theatrical version that the original creators signed off on for Broadway. It's true that Ira Gershwin was alive and allowed the unedited version to become the standard version for decades, but it's interesting to think how George, had he lived longer, would have edited the work. At least we have both versions to consider now.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 1, 2010
Following in the tradition of his recordings of STREET SCENE and REGINA, the John Mauceri recording of PORGY AND BESS, alas, underwhelms. The people involved state this as the PORGY Gershwin wanted. I would say rather that it's the PORGY Gershwin realistically settled for. The use of subsequent changes in the libretto and lyrics for certain offensive words alone calls into question the historical accuracy of this "1935 version". One has to wonder what other unspoken compromises have been made. Further statements in the notes for this recording have a scent of self-congratulation and self-justification rather than musical scholarship, at the expense of Gershwin's full, original version. One glaring statement involves Act III's "Occupational Humoresque", stating this recording captures its first performance since 1938, ignoring the fact that the effect was heard in the 1959 film and its soundtrack album. As for the recording itself, no one will accuse it of mimicking Maazel's "conservatory" approach. Mauceri isn't that careful. He allows his soloists a wide berth, to the point where at times they're not with the orchestra at all. At times, its just sloppy. The one good thing this abridged version does is bring into proper perspective the musical and dramatic cohesiveness and magnitude of Gershwin's full score as we have thankfully known it for the last thirty years. In short, this recording is not recommended- a wasted opportunity for an American masterwork. For the original complete score that Gershwin composed and orchestrated, I would go with the Houston Grand Opera recording, not the Glyndebourne. And a better two-disc (slightly abridged) recording on Sony or Naxos(UK) conducted by Lehman Engel in 1951 is a personal favorite.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.