By 1984, George Gershwin's "American Folk Opera" Porgy and Bess had received many recordings of varying length and in various styles, from full-scale treatments in a classical vein to abridged versions that oriented it toward show music, jazz, and pop. A work first heard on the Broadway stage, it had been adopted by opera companies, and several of its songs had become standards with many recordings by pop singers. The Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Leonard Slatkin, here presents a classically oriented 48-minute highlights version of the nearly 50-year-old work, with Simon Estes handling material intended both for Porgy and the character of Sportin' Life ("It Ain't Necessarily So"), and Roberta Alexander taking on not only Bess, but also Clara ("Summertime") and Serena ("My Man's Gone Now"). The only other vocal soloist is Diane Curry, portraying Maria, who gets some lines in "Oh, I Can't Sit Down" and "Tell Me Quick Where's Bess." The main singers, thus, are stretched to apply themselves to different parts, and while it would be unfair to say that their performances are rote, these are renditions that offer little in the way of drama or characterization. One difference between this group of excerpts and some others is that unusual choices have been made about what to include, so that, for example, the well-known songs "A Woman Is a Sometime Thing" and "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York" are missing. (A perusal of the track list might suggest that another, "I Loves You Porgy," isn't here, either, but in fact it is part of the track called "Now de Time, Oh Gawd.") It is therefore hard to recommend this recording either on the basis of performance or contents, especially when there are so many other recordings.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Porgy and Bess, opera|
feat: Roberta Alexander