Gershwin: Porgy & Bess (1935 version)by John Mauceri
It was once a divisive claim, but few today would deny that Porgy and Bess is one of the great American operas, and probably the greatest of them all. However, as Gerhswin scholars have shown -- and as this new recording is the first to put into practice -- the version we're used to hearing isn't exactly the Porgy that was performed in its 1935 New York premiere. Gershwin made several cuts from the published score for that Broadway run (most noticeably Porgy's "Buzzard Song"), and also a few additions, all of which are ignored in today's "complete" contemporary productions and recordings of the opera. Unparalleled in his musical theater expertise, conductor John Mauceri courts some controversy by re-creating this "original" -- a Porgy that fits on two CDs instead of the usual three. Will listeners prefer the more streamlined drama of this version, or would they rather hear as much as possible of Gershwin's inspired music? The questions would be moot if the performance captured here weren't so successful. Of course it's intriguing to hear the unfamiliar passages: an onstage band leading the cast to the Act II picnic, and the "Occupational humoresque" introducing the final scene -- a "symphony of sounds" first devised by director Rouben Mamoulian for the original, non-musical stage play of Porgy. But it's the strong performances that distinguish this recording: Alvy Powell, a longtime veteran in the role of Porgy, is a powerful presence, projecting warmth and rock-solid strength, while Marquita Lister offers a believable portrait of the troubled Bess. From Nicole Cabell as Clara, sweetly soulful in the opera's signature tune, "Summertime," to Robert Mack as the deviously captivating Sportin' Life, and throughout the large cast, the singers create a convincing ensemble portrait of Gershwin's Catfish Row. Mauceri prompts the Nashville Symphony -- whose credentials in American repertoire have been well established by their recent recordings for Naxos -- in a vigorous performance where all the jazz, ragtime, and blues elements sound completely natural and honest. In other words, whatever its relation to the composer's original intentions, it's as authentic as can be to Gershwin's spirit.
- Release Date:
- Porgy and Bess, opera
Performance CreditsJohn Mauceri Primary Artist
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