Sunday, July 31, 2011

Seattle Opera "Porgy and Bess" Showcases Two Young Singers

Mary Elizabeth Williams as Serena with Gordon
Hawkins as Porgy. (Photo: Elise Bakketun/Seattle Opera)
"Porgy is a treasure trove of magnificent music, a compendium of one great number after another. Its status as an opera has always been more a complicated proposition. Discussions about where exactly it fits in the repertoire, not to mention its generic implications, are ultimately unsatisfactory: it is what it is, and the occasional lurches in tone from rather conventional old-school opera to Broadway show are part of its fabric. In a way, Seattle Opera’s production doesn’t particularly try to smooth over these inconsistencies. The show-tune idiom associated with Sportin’ Life’s two big numbers (excellently sung, acted, and danced by tenor Jermaine Smith) are frankly treated as star turns. Alto Gwendolyn Brown’s Maria knowingly achieves considerable theatrical effect with her small character role. Leads Gordon Hawkins as Porgy and Lisa Daltirus as Bess embody a more classical sensibility, and a rather refined one at that. Soprano Daltirus brings stature and a sophisticated musical delivery to a role
Click here for special interview
with Mary Elizabeth Williams.
that swings from near-caricature to gritty realism. Baritone Hawkins, a SO favourite, has a warm, rich sound, and very considerable finesse; on opening night, his sensitive restraint was tarnished by occasional balance issues between singer and brass-heavy orchestra. In subordinate roles, baritone Michael Redding was a virile and effective Crown, with lots of requisite swagger and a ringing sound. Porgy’s second scene proved a fine showcase for soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams, who demonstrated that Gershwin (and librettist Dubose Heyward’s) rather one-dimensional characters are nonetheless capable of surprising psychological depth. Her 'Since my man’s gone now' was raw but astonishingly moving—one of the highlights of a solid, and solidly entertaining, revival of a (the?) great American classic." [Source]

Donovan Singletary as Jake.
(Photo: Elise Bakketun)
"Blue's opening number of 'Summertime' sets the tone perfectly with her soaring voice and only sets up the tragedy even more for when Daltirus reprises it later in the show. And [Donovan] Singletary and Blue are stunning as they portray the new hope of this run down town. Smith and Redding as the villains of the piece are each deliciously despicable in their own way. Redding with his sultry lowness and Smith with his conniving temptations and snake like physicality. Brown tends to steal every scene she's in with her grand, take no prisoners attitude. And Williams' rendition of 'My Man is Gone Now' at the funeral brought the entire house to tears. But the show is called Porgy and Bess and the title characters do not get overshadowed at all by the stellar supporting cast. Hawkins quiet strength is the perfect compliment for Daltirus' broken innocence and the two create the perfect aching chemistry for these heartbreaking lovers. Now you may have noticed I haven't said much about the vocal quality of the performers. Well, that's
Click here for a special interview
with Donovan Singletary.
because it all goes without saying as every single person in the show, from principle to chorus, delivers soul shaking vocal performances. This is made even more awe inspiring as none of the performers are miked. Yes, you heard me. In the grand McCaw Hall, there is no amplification so these amazing singers are literally belting to the rafters. Yes the supertitles are still there as with foreign language operas so we're sure to get every word of the story. But for us jaded musical theater aficionados, listening to real voices able to do what they did is a genuine treat. The production is near flawless." [Source]

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