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Opera of the week: Porgy and Bess January 26, 2007

Posted by Jeff in English, George Gershwin, Jazz, Music, Musicals, Opera, Theater.

This is by way of an answer to Ruth’s question about a good opera to introduce young people to the form. George Gershwin’s masterpiece is, of course, the great American opera, and arguably the best opera ever written in the English language.

Until the work began to be performed in opera houses in the 1970s, this 1951 recording was the closest to a full and faithful rendition most of us had ever heard. Although I certainly agree that Porgy and Bess is an opera, it’s an opera that was written for Broadway, and for the kinds of voices featured here. Even though it’s missing almost an hour from the full opera I still enjoy this more than most of the newer full-length recordings. (If you want a complete version, I recommend the Houston Grand Opera cast.)

Produced by Goddard Lieberson, with Laurence Winters as Porgy, Camilla Williams as Bess, Inez Matthews as Serena, Warren Coleman as Crown, Avon Long as Sportin’ Life, June McMechen as Clara, Eddie Matthews as Jake, William A. Glover as Mingo and Irving Washington as Robbins, the John Rosamond Johnson Chorus and orchestra conducted by Lehman Engel.

Act I

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Act II

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